In a study of 31 Boston offices, PBDE flame retardants, which are now banned internationally by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, were detected in every one. Researchers think the concentrations of PBDEs in office dust are linked to levels of the chemicals on the HANDS of the office workers, and they think this is a good indication of how much of this chemical is in people’s blood.
Meanwhile, there was a massive dust storm in Phoenix that created a wall of dust 10,000 feet high before it finally dissipated. Meteorologist Paul Iniguez says, "We heard from a lot of people who lived here for a number of storms and this was the worst they’d seen." But dangerous office dust doesn’t come from dust storms, so where does it come from?
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 the United States. Why is it dangerous? In recent years, epidemiologic studies have linked exposure to 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.
Although scientists don’t know exactly how people accumulate high concentrations of PBDEs in their bodies, hand-to-mouth exposure is probably the culprit. In this study, workers who reported washing their hands with soap and water four or more times per day tended to have lower levels of them on their hands AND three times lower concentrations of in their blood.
Researcher Deborah Watkins says, "This could be through hand-to-mouth behaviors such as eating oily food without washing your hands, or because the PBDEs are absorbed into the blood from the skin." In
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