Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Are Indoor Risk
Concentrations of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) -- found in many everyday products and of concern due to potential health hazards -- are higher indoors than outdoors, according to a new study.
However, they were equally prevalent in both an urban low-income community and a coastal community with a lot of industry.
"The higher your exposure to consumer products, the higher your exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals," researcher Ruthann Rudel, director of research at the Silent Spring Institute, Newton, Mass., tells WebMD.
"The study results show that indoor exposure of consumer products to chemicals [to these chemicals] has been more prevalent and consistent than expected," says Sherwood. It crosses all geography, demography and was based upon a small sample.
Online publication of the study in Environmental Science & Technology.
Take Samples from EDCs
Rudel, along with her associates, tested outdoor and indoor air in two San Francisco Bay communities. They searched for 104 compounds including 70 EDCs.
Rudel believes that EDCs may disrupt or mimic the body's natural hormonal system. They can also hinder cell growth and development.
Rudel says scientists have been studying EDCs in the early 1990s to determine how they affect the development of children, reproductive health, and the possibility for cancers.
Rudel's 2006 samplings were conducted in Richmond (Calif.), an urban, low-income community. Bolinas was a beach community with little industry and is more affluent than Richmond. The samples were taken from 10 Bolinas and 40 Richmond houses.
Researchers discovered 39 chemicals in the outdoors, while 63 were found indoors. This includes phthalates, parabens and PBDE flame-retardants, PCBs and pesticides.
They are in detergents as well as furniture, carpets and electronic devices.
Rudel observed that 32 EDCs showed higher indoor concentrations than those found outdoors. However, only two EDCs were greater outside.
The indoor levels of EDCs for both communities were closer than the outdoor.
Rudel reports to WebMD that these new findings are "based on the Cape Cod study in 2003." However, the East Coast study was conducted entirely indoors.
Rudel wrote, "This study has shown that indoor air quality is affected by chemicals in consumer products."
Some research also shows adverse effects on health from exposure to EDCs like flame retardants or phthalates. She says that more research is necessary.
WebMD is not aware that the sample may reflect exposure to specific people. She says, "These results reflect the amount of air in the atmosphere and not what's on your body."
She says that soaps containing EDCs can have higher levels of skin-irritants than air.
Rudel asserts that exposure information is essential to enable regulatory agencies to focus on EDCs with high, or common, exposures, and then decide whether control is necessary.
She says that manufacturers can use this information to decide on product formulas. Consumers with the right information will be able to choose what products to purchase.
Charles J. Weschler (PhD), adjunct professor of environment and occupational medicine at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and visiting professor at Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen, said that the new findings are further evidence of what many scientists had suspected.
''It drives home the fact that a lot of these compounds that are potentially endocrine-disrupting are entering our bodies in part as a consequent of indoor exposures," he tells WebMD, although he says that some do come from food and drink as well.
He says that indoor concentrations are not affected by whether one lives near a refinery, or the forest.
Weschler said that in an 1984 study, he had measured several of these compounds. These compounds could be EDCs, he said. They considered the compounds to be additives and were included in many products back then.
He believes that this paper "is alerting people who weren't aware indoor exposures are really important for a lot these compounds."
He says, "When you purchase a new shower curtain that has a strong smell from plasticizers," some of these chemicals will end up in your body.
How to avoid EDCs
Rudel said that research is continuing and people who are concerned can take some steps to minimize their exposure.
EDCs are not recommended for use in cosmetics and cleaning products. Fabrics coated with an anti-stain chemicals should be avoided. Avoid using antibacterial soaps containing triclosan.