Banned toxin found in wood floor finishes
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A wood floor finish popular in the 1950s and 1960s may be a significant source of the banned, disease-causing pollutants known as PCBs, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.
They did a case study in the homes of older women and found that those with a PCB-containing wood floor finish sold under the brand name Fabulon had very high indoor air, dust and blood levels of PCBs -- 50 years after the floors were installed.
"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," Ruthann Rudel of the Silent Spring Institute near Boston and colleagues wrote in their report.
Many buildings, including schools, may still harbor PCB-containing floor finishes or other products, they wrote in the BioMed Central journal Environmental Health.
Rudel and colleagues tested the bodies and homes of 120 women living on Cape Cod in Massachusetts who had been taking part in a breast cancer study.
"Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent pollutants identified worldwide as human blood and breast milk contaminants," they wrote.
They accumulate in body fat over time.
"In an earlier study, we detected PCBs in indoor air in 31 percent of 120 homes on Cape Cod," they wrote.
More testing showed the residents had very high blood levels of PCBs -- above the 95th percentile for the U.S. population. The women lived for 10 years or longer in homes where Fabulon had been used.
"Serum concentrations in residents and air and dust concentrations were especially high in a home where a resident reported use of PCB-containing floor finish in the past, and where the floor of one room was sanded and refinished just prior to sample collection," the researchers wrote.
Production and use of PCBs was banned in the United States in 1977, with a very few exceptions, after studies showed they could damage the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems, as well as cause breast cancer.
(Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Will Dunham)