Friday, July 8, 2011

Working in an office? You could be exposed to banned toxins

Many office workers are exposed to a
banned flame retardant.
A US study evaluating 31 offices in Boston, Massachussetts has found that most office workers have concentrations of a banned flame retardant on their hands, which was directly linked to the amount of the toxin found in their blood.

The flame retardant called polybrominated dipheny ether (PBDE) was found in the dust in these offices. It was once widely used in computers and other electronics as well as the polyurethane foam padding in office chairs, furniture, and carpeting.

Even though PBDEs were banned under the Stockholm Convention, a treaty to control and phase out major pollutants, they are still widespread in many offices.

In previous studies, PBDEs have been linked to thyroid hormone imbalance, fatigue, depression, anxiety, unexplained weight gain, hair loss, low libido and infertility.

What to do to reduce exposure to toxins

While you likely can't avoid PBDEs altogether, researchers said the best way to cut your exposure is to wash your hands often with soap and water.

In the study, workers who reported washing their hands four or more times per day tended to have lower levels of PBDEs on their hands than those who washed their hands less often.

They also had, on average, three times lower concentrations of PBDEs in their blood.

When it comes to upgrading office furniture and electronics, opt for products that don’t contain brominated fire retardants and choose PBDE-free furniture.

Keep your office space as clean as possible and dust regularly with a damp cloth.

During lunch time, you can also try to reduce your exposure: According to Health Canada, PBDEs are also found in some fatty meats, fish, and dairy products., a project of the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition, says avoid farmed fish, especially farmed salmon from the UK or US, and reduce animal fats from your diet.

Source: The Independent

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