In a study of 31 Boston offices, polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants now banned internationally by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants were detected in every office tested. The research, published online June 30 ahead of print in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), links concentrations of PBDEs in office dust with levels of the chemicals on the hands of the offices’ occupants.
Handwashing lowers PBDE levels
The study authors also found the amount of PBDEs on workers’ hands to be a good predictor of how much was measured in their blood. However, frequent handwashing appeared to reduce exposure to certain PBDEs. This is the first peer-reviewed research to correlate levels of PBDEs on people’s hands to concentrations in their blood, says lead author Deborah Watkins, a Ph.D. candidate at the Boston University School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health.
PBDE Changes hormones in humans
PBDEs were once widely used in computers and other electronics as well as the polyurethane foam padding in office chairs, furniture, and carpeting, so the chemicals are likely to be found in offices throughout Europe and America. In recent years, epidemiologic studies have linked exposure to constituents of the PBDE formulation penta-BDE, which was used in polyurethane foam, with changes in people’s thyroid hormones, impaired fertility in women, lowered levels of testosterone in men, neurodevelopmental deficits in children, and undescended testicles in babies.
Read the abstract of “Exposure to PBDEs in the Office Environment: Evaluating the Relationships Between Dust, Handwipes, and Serum” here