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Is Your Office Making You Sick?

Study Finds PFCs in Office Workers' Blood; Workers in New Offices Have Even Higher Levels of the Potentially Toxic Chemical
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PFCs in the Office: Study Details continued...

In the blood samples, the PFC called PFOA, a breakdown product of FTOHs, was linked with the office air level of the FTOH.

These findings might suggest that office air is a unique and also important exposure source, the researchers say.

''We found that the levels found in the air are different by building; the levels measured in blood are also different by building," McLean tells WebMD.

Those workers in the new building had the highest levels of PFCs in the blood, McClean found. The newer building had newer furniture, paint, and carpeting. The next highest levels were in workers with offices in the partially renovated building. Those in the older building with no new furniture or carpeting had the lowest levels.

The researchers found only a link, McClean tells WebMD, not a cause and effect. "We can't say whether A causes B," he says.  

Levels found were consistent, he says, with the levels found in the general population, wherever they may work.

PFCs at the Office: Perspectives

''The new study is really important," says Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist at Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization. "Up to this point, there has been debate among researchers about from which sources PFCs get into our bodies," she says. "This class of chemicals, they are all over the place."

Finding the sources of the chemicals is crucial, she says. "We need to get this stuff out [of consumer goods]," Naidenko tells WebMD. "We should not be exposing our workers to these chemicals."

Health effects have been found, she says, even with low blood levels of PFCs.   

PFCs in consumer goods such as carpeting do not dissipate quickly, she tells WebMD. Consumers can check before they buy items such as carpeting, asking if any PFCs (from stain repellents) are in the item. However, she concedes, sales people do not always know.

Janet Smith, a spokeswoman for DuPont Chemicals and Fluoroproducts, declined to comment at length. On its web site, DuPont states that it has reduced PFOA emissions at manufacturing sites worldwide by 98%. It says it is developing alternative stain repellents.

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