Study uncovers high levels of previously unsuspected pollutant in homes, environment

October 30, 2018, Indiana University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Scientists at Indiana University found high levels of a previously unsuspected pollutant in homes, in an electronic waste recycling facility and in the natural environment. People are likely to be exposed to this pollutant by breathing contaminated dust or through skin contact.

The , tri(2,4-di-t-butylphenyl) phosphate or TDTBPP, is part of a family of organophosphates that are known to be toxic. However, little information is known about the toxicity of TDTBPP or how it gets into our environment. The chemical may be used as a flame retardant or as a plasticizer in consumer products. It may also be formed as other chemicals degrade. It may even be an impurity in a structurally related compound.

"We found surprisingly high levels of TDTBPP everywhere we looked," said Marta Venier, a scientist at the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the first author of the study. "The fact that this potentially toxic chemical is so abundant, but was previously unknown, is another example of the ineffective management of chemicals in the United States."

Many common commercial chemicals, including TDTBPP, are not subject to regulatory scrutiny under the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act unless they are used for new purposes, and much of the information about their commercial use is private. Therefore, it is difficult for environmental chemists to track how these pollutants enter the environment and what kind of effects they might cause once they do. Many chemicals go undetected until scientists perform a general environmental scan, like this study conducted by scientists at IU.

The researchers studied dust samples from an e-waste dismantling facility in Ontario, Canada. Chemicals similar to TDTBPP are often used in the production of plastics, wires, printed circuit boards and electronic equipment, making e-waste recycling facilities an important place to search for previously undetected pollutants.

The researchers also studied dust from 20 residential homes in Ontario and analyzed outdoor samples from southwestern Lake Michigan to measure the amounts of TDTBPP in ambient air, water and sediment. They found that levels of TDTBPP were particularly high in house dust.

"Our research is the first step," Venier said. "Now that we know that TDTBPP is prevalent, especially in homes, scientists can flag it for further study and focus on understanding the effects of TDTBPP on people."

The study, "Tri(2,4-di-t-butylphenyl) Phosphate: A Previously Unrecognized, Abundant, Ubiquitous Pollutant in the Built and Natural Environment," will be published Oct. 30 in Environmental Science & Technology. The authors were Venier, William Stubbings, Jiehong Guo, Kevin Romanak and Ronald A. Hites of Indiana University; Liisa Jantunen of Environment and Climate Change Canada; Lisa Melymuk of Masaryk University in the Czech Republic; and Linh V. Nguyen, Victoria Arrandale and Miriam L. Diamond of the University of Toronto.

Explore further: Chemical sleuthing leads to detection of little-known flame retardant in the environment

More information: Marta Venier et al, Tri(2,4-di-t-butylphenyl) Phosphate: A Previously Unrecognized, Abundant, Ubiquitous Pollutant in the Built and Natural Environment, Environmental Science & Technology (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b02939

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FredJose
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 30, 2018
I thank God that someone is out there looking for these things. That's why we need each other - we cannot do everything ourselves.
katesisco
5 / 5 (1) Oct 30, 2018
Rather later in the day, isn't it? How much of our now degraded intelligence can we afford to lose yet again?
For years the psych community said Learning Disabled--now correctly known as mental retardation--was only 3% and now has admitted 10% AND that research indicates the condition is brain wide and not amenable to any treatment.
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (2) Oct 30, 2018
Yep, there is a growing body of evidence for for designating different classifications of Stupid.

"The Ignorant can be Educated. The Stupid can at least be provided access to the opportunity of Education. Even a basic remedial education is better than none."

Some Stupid refuse Education and embrace Ignorance. Unfortunately, these are a large percentage of the population.

religious believers, altright fairytaiils, racists and bigots, denier-shills, worshipers at the altars of the EU/aether/theosophists/eugenics/paranormal/fakir-libertarian/false conservatives cults.

No real difference between any of them. All the different cults can be identified by the same intent to force ignorance on every one else.
Anonym518498
Oct 30, 2018
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Researcher
5 / 5 (3) Oct 30, 2018
"ineffective management of chemicals in the United States."
Its not only the US, its world wide. We are slowly destroying ourselves.
Researcher
5 / 5 (3) Oct 30, 2018
@FredJose looking at these things will not fix them. We need someone not only looking at them but also doing something about it.
You can hit a point in nature called the tipping point. Once hit nobody knows what the outcome will be.
As Carl Sagon said, nature will always re-balance. What you need to know is can you live in the new balance. Many animals have faced extinction on our planet and also some human species. There is nothing in nature that says humans generally are exempt from extinction.
michael_frishberg
5 / 5 (2) Oct 30, 2018
"ineffective management of chemicals" - nothing new ought to be allowed into manufacturing, until the risk for cancers and other environmental effects have been costed out, so the cost can be applied to the chemical responsible, before it gets into the environment. Unrecognized costs is exactly why so much CO2 is in the atmosphere, no one paid for the environmental damage when they formed a price for gas.
Dug
not rated yet Oct 31, 2018
"They found that levels of TDTBPP were particularly high in house dust."

Most house dust comes from household fiber products such as carpets and fabrics - especially flannels and fleeces and other fuzzy fabrics. Today most of these fiber products are synthetics - plastics of one form or another. Since much of these products are made overseas, it is difficult to regulate or track the chemicals used to make them and or their breakdown by-products.

Of course a large component of dust is also human and animal dander - dead skin particles - which most of wash daily with chemical soaps and conditions that this dead skin soaks like a sponge - and then degrades into who knows what.

In any case we might want to determine if this "potentially toxic" by-product is harmful and to what degree, before we set our collective hair on fire... and produce more pollutants.

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