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Wood finishes

Wood Floor Finishes Contaminated with Toxic PCB Chemicals

Monday, June 16, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: wood finishes, health news, Natural News


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(NaturalNews) A once-popular finish for wooden floors may still be a significant source of toxic chemical exposure more than 50 years later, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Silent Spring Institute and published in the journal Environmental Health.

Between 1999 and 2001, the researchers measured levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the air and dust inside 120 houses in Cape Cod. The houses were inhabited by older women who were taking part in a breast cancer study.

The researchers detected PCBs in 31 percent of those homes, or nearly one in three. Two of the homes tested demonstrated much higher levels of PCBs than any other house.

In the current study, the same researchers revisited those two houses, testing not only PCBs concentrations in the air and dust, but also taking blood samples from the residents. Five years after the original study, the air and dust levels of PCBs in the homes remained unusually high. Even more striking, the women had PCB blood levels above the 95th percentile for the U.S. population as a whole.

Upon questioning the residents, the researchers found that the wood floors of both houses had been finished with a brand called Fabulon, which was popular during the 1950s and 1960s. Both women had lived in the houses for more than 10 years.

"Use of a commercially available PCB-containing wood floor finish in residences during the 1950s and 1960s is an overlooked but potentially important source of current PCB exposure in the general population," the researchers warned. They noted that the same or similar floor finishes were used in many buildings that still see heavy use today, such as schools.

PCBs are persistent organic pollutants, meaning that they accumulate in the body and resist breakdown by environmental factors. They have been known to accumulate in human blood, breast milk and body fat, and are known to damage the hormonal, immune, nervous and reproductive system. PCBs are also carcinogens and estrogen mimics.

With certain limited exceptions, the production or use of PCBs was made illegal in the United States in 1977.

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