(NaturalNews) New, as-yet-unpublished, research has found that traces of a chemical banned in the U.S. some 35 years ago is leaching out of clothing and printed materials from around the world.
The chemical, a polychlorinated biphenyl called PCB-11, was found in just about every sample of paper products sold in 26 countries, as well as clothing sold in the United States. And researchers say their findings could shed light on how the chemical, which is tied to yellow dyes, paints and inks, has found its way back into the air, waterways and some people's bloodstreams, Environmental Health News (EHN) reports.
What's more, though polychlorinated biphenyls have been banned, PCB-11's presence in some consumer products is exempt from U.S. regulatory laws, because PCB-11 is an unintentional byproduct of pigment manufacturing.
"It's out there in levels that are worrisome," Lisa Rodenburg, an associate professor of environmental chemistry at Rutgers University and senior author of the study, said. "Even at the parts per billion levels, if you find it in almost everything you test, that means people are in almost constant contact."
'PCB 11 is ubiquitously present'
Precisely what the health effects of trace exposure to PCB-11 are has not been determined, because they haven't been studied. However, unlike old PCBs, PCB-11 does not build up in animals or people. The banned PCBs, which are so persistent that they continue to contaminate the environment, are linked to cancer, suppressed immune systems and reduced IQs.
As reported byEHN:
In the new tests, all 28 samples of non-U.S., ink-treated paper products, including advertisements, maps, postcards, napkins and brochures, contained PCB-11 in the parts-per-billion range. In the United States, 15 of the 18 paper products had it.
In addition, all 16 pieces of U.S. clothing contained PCB-11. Most were children's items bought at WalMart stores but manufactured overseas, Rodenburg said. In one kids' pajama top, the front, which had yellow printing on it, had 20 times more PCB-11 than the back, which was printed in red.
"PCB 11 is ubiquitously present as a by-product in commercial pigment applications, particularly in printed materials," wrote the authors from Rutgers University and Boston College in a draft of the study, which is expected to be published later this year after having already undergone peer review.
The federal government banned all PCBs in the late 1970s because they were found to be accumulating in the environment, as well as in people and animals. However, byproducts of manufacturing are permitted as "unintentional contaminants."
Federal regulations "recognize that some products (e.g., pigments and dyes) contain inadvertently generated PCBs," Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson Cathy Milbourn said in an emailed response to EHN.
Under federal law, these compounds "are defined as excluded manufacturing products or processes and are not regulated as long as they are reported to EPA and the PCB concentrations do not exceed specified limits," she said.
Currently, the EPA is examining what risk factors are posed by PCB-11, Milbourn added.
' Everyone has ignored the lower chlorinated congeners'
Most PCBs that were utilized in electrical equipment and as industrial solvents from the 1930s until 1979 were much more chlorinated than PCB-11. They have been classified as probable human carcinogens and are among some of the most well studied contaminants in the world.
Because of their high chlorination levels, they have remained in ocean and river sediments for decades. They have also manifested in fish and marine mammal tissues.
But so far, not much is known about the effects of PCB-11.
"Everyone has ignored the lower chlorinated congeners, primarily because they are not persistent and are relatively easily metabolized in the human body," Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany-SUNY, said. However, it is a "very real and important issue."