Long-banned PCB found in clothing, paints, and paper with yellow pigment
Polychlorinated biphenyls, banned in Canada and the U.S. 35 years ago, can leach out of clothing and printed materials
By Brian Bienkowski
The Georgia Straight: February 21, 2014
New, unpublished research has found that traces of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—banned in the United States 35 years ago—are leaching out of clothing and printed materials from around the world.
PCB-11 was detected in nearly all samples of paper products sold in 26 countries and clothing sold in the United States. The findings shed some light on how the chemical, tied to yellow dyes, inks, and paints, is finding its way into people’s blood, the air, and waterways.
Because it is an unintentional byproduct of pigment manufacturing, the PCB-11 found in the consumer products is exempt from U.S. laws regulating the compounds.
[In Canada, the federal and provincial governments enacted legislation prohibiting or regulating the manufacture, use, handling, storage, and transportation of PCBs in 1977, 1980, and 1985.–GS]
Levels are “worrisome”
“It’s out there in levels that are worrisome,” said Lisa Rodenburg, an associate professor of environmental chemistry at Rutgers University and senior author of the study.
“Even at the parts-per-billion levels, if you find it in almost everything you test, that means people are in almost constant contact,” she said.
Health effects of exposure to traces of PCB-11 have not been studied. But unlike the old PCBs, it doesn’t accumulate in people or animals. The banned PCBs, which are so persistent they are still contaminating the environment, have been linked to reduced IQs, cancer, and suppressed immune systems.
In the new tests, all 28 samples of non-U.S., ink-treated paper products, including advertisements, maps, postcards, napkins, and brochures, contained PCB-11 in the parts-per-billion range. In the United States, 15 of the 18 paper products had it.
Kids’ pyjamas had high levels
In addition, all 16 pieces of U.S. clothing contained PCB-11. Most were children’s items bought at WalMart stores but manufactured overseas, Rodenburg said. In one kids’ pyjama top, the front, which had yellow printing on it, had 20 times more PCB-11 than the back, which was printed in red.
“PCB 11 is ubiquitously present as a by-product in commercial pigment applications, particularly in printed materials,” the authors from Rutgers University and Boston College wrote in a draft of the study, which has undergone initial peer review and is expected to be published this year.
All PCBs were banned in the United States in the late 1970s because they were building up in the environment and in the bodies of people and wildlife. But byproducts of manufacturing are allowed as “unintentional contaminants”.
(read the rest of the article at Straight.com)
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