Toxic Contamination in Offices: Study Reveals Hidden Chemicals in Dust

July 6, 2011
Toxic chemicals have been found in several buildings in Boston.

Toxic chemicals have been found in several buildings in Boston. Researchers studied over two dozen offices in Boston and discovered dangerous flame retardant chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in every office they monitored. Facility managers and building owners should be aware of this potential health hazard.

"These chemicals can mimic our bodies' natural hormones and may contribute to problems with reproduction and development," says Ami Zota, Sc.D., researcher with the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment at the University of California San Francisco, "Young men and women of child bearing age working in offices should know that fetal exposure to PBDEs can alter brain development and lead to long lasting developmental deficits including reduced IQ."

PBDE’s were used in a wide array of products such as building materials, furnishings and electronics but have been banned by an international treaty under the Stockholm Convention.

"While our study sampled a relatively small number of offices, the findings suggest additional research could indicate most offices are contaminated," says Tom Webster PhD., study co-author and associate chairman, Boston University School of Public Health. "PBDEs are very pervasive but even in new offices with brand new furniture we found PBDE compounds present."

In addition to the effects on fetal development the chemical is linked to thyroid disease and infertility. The study found frequent hand washing may reduce exposure to certain PBDEs.

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