[Pharmwaste] Toxic contamination starts at home: Study

DeBiasi,Deborah dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Fri Nov 21 09:30:15 EST 2008


Toxic contamination starts at home: Study
Tom Spears 
Canwest News Service 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

When women from 120 middle-class homes learned their bodies contained
low levels of toxic chemicals, most of them blamed chemical spills,
waste dumping or secret military experiments.

They were stunned to learn the truth was closer to home. Most of their
exposure came from harmless-looking plastics, flame-retardant clothing,
beauty products and household cleaners.

A new study says we tend to put too much blame on environmental
disasters that don't actually affect us.

"It's the consumer products" that bring chemicals into our bodies, says
Kathleen Cooper, a researcher for the Canadian Environmental Law

And while a study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior was done
in Cape Cod, she says exactly the same mindset prevails here. Canadians
"are surprised when we talk about consumer products as a key source."

"People have this assumption that a product is on a shelf, and someone
has made sure that it's safe, nothing toxic in it. And that is a false

Outdoor air pollution still matters, she noted, "but the area that is
coming forward as very important is indoor exposure. We spend 80 per
cent of our time indoors."

"Pollution at home has been a blind spot for society," said Rebecca
Altman, a Brown University sociologist who surveyed women in Cape Cod.

The women had volunteered urine samples for a 2003 study on chemical
exposure. The survey found their bodies - and also household dust -
contained cancer-causing compounds and chemicals that upset human
hormone systems.

"An important shift occurs in how people understand environmental
pollution, its sources and possible solutions, as they learn about
chemicals from everyday products that are detectable in urine samples
and the household dust collecting under the sofa," she said.

These included phthalates (common plastic ingredients used in varnishes,
perfumes, cosmetics and detergents); anthracenes (from paving materials
and diesel); solvents (paints, varnishes, some ink); flame retardants
from upholstered furniture; parabens (an anti-microbial agent in
everything from jam to cosmetics); and a host of "breakdown products"
left over when the body metabolizes pollutants.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences and the National Science Foundation.

The 2003 tests on urine and household dust focused on Cape Cod because
the area is known to have a higher than average rate of breast cancer.

The women were aware of some high-profile chemicals, such as bisphenol A
(BPA) in some plastic bottles. But the study adds that "women do not
readily connect typical household products with personal chemical
exposure and related adverse health effects."

Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email:   dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
WEB site address:  www.deq.virginia.gov
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Water Permit Programs
Industrial Pretreatment/Toxics Management Program
PPCPs, EDCs, and Microconstituents
Mail:          P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA  23218 (NEW!)
Location:  629 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA  23219
PH:         804-698-4028
FAX:      804-698-4032

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