New research finds some wood floor finishes are a likely source of PCB exposure

Jan 17, 2008

A case study to be published in the online open access journal Environmental Health suggests that old wood floor finishes in some homes may be an overlooked source of exposure to the now banned environmental pollutants polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

PCBs are persistent organic pollutants identified worldwide as human blood and breast milk contaminants. They were widely used in industry as cooling and insulating fluids for electrical equipment as well as in construction and domestic products such as varnishes and caulks. PCBs were banned in the 1970s because of their high toxicity.

PCBs are associated with thyroid toxicity, effects on immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems, and cancer effects including breast cancer. The research by the Silent Spring Institute shows that current exposure from old wood floor finishes may be even more significant for some people than their diet.

Researchers Ruthann Rudel and Julia Brody of the Silent Spring Institute and Liesel Seryak, of the Ohio State University previously measured PCBs in indoor air and dust in homes in Cape Cod during 1999-2001. They found detectable levels of PCBs in almost one in three of 120 residences. However, two of the homes had much higher concentrations of PCBs than the others. They have now retested those two homes to verify the initial finding, and they have evaluated blood PCB concentrations of the residents.

The newest findings are that air and dust concentrations of PCBs remained elevated over five years between initial and follow-up sampling. Residents in the two homes also showed higher levels of PCBs in their blood serum than the 95th percentile of a representative sample of the US population.

The likely source of the PCBs was brought to light when a resident reported using a particular floor finish, Fabulon, in the home in the 1950s and 1960s. Researchers learned that this product contained PCBs in the past from a reference book series “Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products” which was published at that time.

The researchers point out that many buildings, including schools and public buildings, from this period may harbor PCB-containing floor finishes or other products. "Our findings suggest that the exposure potential posed by historic use of PCBs in building materials may be significantly underestimated," the researchers said.

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: New measures identified for newborn care in Uganda

Related Stories

Flame Retardant Exposure Linked to House Dust

Dec 30, 2004

Common house dust may be an important source of a potentially dangerous class of chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), according to an exploratory study* by researchers at the National Institute of Standards ...

Recommended for you

New measures identified for newborn care in Uganda

23 minutes ago

In Uganda, child mortality rates are improving, but progress is slower for deaths occurring in the first four weeks of life, or the newborn period, and for stillbirths. But recent evidence from local researchers ...

Should men cut back on their soy intake?

3 hours ago

Recently, a friend called my husband to inquire about the risks for men in consuming too much soy milk. He had read an article that described how one individual's plight led him down the path of breast enlargement, and was ...

Probing Question: What is umami?

3 hours ago

The next time you're at a dinner party and want to spice up the conversation, you might compliment the hosts on their umami-rich appetizers. Then wait a moment until someone invariably asks, "What's umami?"

Will the Affordable Care Act eliminate health disparities?

5 hours ago

Massachusetts' health reform may be a crystal ball for researchers and policymakers in forecasting the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act. Many see the ACA as the backbone of efforts toward closing the nation's health ...

Experts question election pledges on GP access

16 hours ago

As the general election in the UK approaches, experts writing in The BMJ this week question whether the party promises on access to general practice are likely to be achievable.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.