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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Environmental Health Note/Household Endocrine Disruptors

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth's Diane Toomey Reports on the first comprehensive study of endocrine disrupters in the home.


CURWOOD: Coming up: hunting frogs and capturing crocs – tales of the Everglades when we return. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.


TOOMEY: Little is known about indoor exposure to chemicals that can alter hormone levels. Now, for the first time, a comprehensive study has looked for a number of these so-called endocrine disruptors in homes.

Researchers sampled air and dust in 120 homes on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They tested for 89 chemicals and found 67, including many endocrine disruptors. The most abundant chemicals, in both air and dust, were phthalates. Phthalates are compounds used in plastics, food packaging and personal care products. Researchers also found flame-retardants and about two dozen pesticides.

The most common was permethrin, an ingredient in household insecticide sprays. A few banned chemicals were also detected, attesting to the slow breakdown rate of chemicals indoors. The pesticide DDT, for example, was banned three decades ago. But, it was still present in 65 percent of the homes.

Fifteen of the chemicals were detected at concentrations exceeded government guidelines. But for 28 of them, no exposure guidelines exist. What's more, the study’s authors who work at the Silent Spring Institute and Harvard’s School of Public Health say there are no exposure guidelines for any chemical that takes into account hormone disruption effects. They add the results of their study should be used as a tool to prioritize research on chemical exposure.

That’s this week’s Health Update, I’m Diane Toomey.


CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.



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