Endocrine disrupting chemicals are an indoor risk

August 5, 2010 — A new study shows that concentrations of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are present in many everyday products and are of concern due to potential health hazards – indoors higher than outdoors .

But the researchers found they were equally present in urban low-income neighborhoods near oil refineries and in wealthier coastal communities with less industry.

“The higher your chances of exposure to consumer products, researcher Ruthann Rudel, research director at the Silent Springs Institute in Newton, Massachusetts, tells WebMD.

”Indoor consumer products are exposed to these chemicals] It’s more common and consistent than we thought,” she said of the findings. “It spans geography and demographics and is based on this limited sample.”

The study is published online in Environmental Science & Technology.

Sampling the EDC

Rudel and her colleagues sampled outdoor air from two neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area, both indoors and outdoors. They looked for 104 compounds, including 70 suspected EDCs.

EDC can mimic or disrupt the body’s natural hormone system, Rudel said. Therefore, they hinder the growth and development of cells.

Rudel says scientists have focused on EDCs since the mid-1990s to understand how they might affect child development, reproduction, and cancers such as breast and prostate cancer .

Rudel’s team sampled in 2006 Richmond, CA (a low-income urban industrial community) and Polinas, CA a wealthy coastal community without much industry . They collected samples from 40 families in Richmond and 10 families in Bolinas.

Tracking EDC

Researchers found 39 chemicals outdoors and 63 indoors, including phthalates, parabens , PBDE flame retardants, PCBs and

These chemicals are found in products such as detergents, furniture, carpets, electronics, pesticides, cosmetics and building materials.

Indoor concentrations were found to be higher than outdoors Rudel found 32 EDCs, only two EDCs were more common outdoors.

The EDC levels of the two communities were more similar indoors than outdoors.

The new findings, Rudel tells WebMD, “build on a study we did on Cape Cod in 2003.” But the East Coast study was done entirely indoors.

”This study shows that chemicals in consumer products can affect indoor air quality and exposure is ubiquitous,” Rudel said in a written statement.


Some studies have shown that typical exposures have adverse health effects, she says. But, she says, more research is needed.

She tells WebMD that sampling may not reflect the impact on specific people. “These results reflect what’s in the air, not what’s on your body,” she said.

For example, using soaps that contain EDC may result in higher levels on the skin than Levels in skin.air, she said, are like skin contact with fabrics with antifouling coatings.

Gathering exposure information is important, Rudel said, so regulators can focus on exposure levels high or common EDC, and decide if controls are needed.

Manufacturers can also use this information to make product formulation decisions, and consumers with this information can decide what to buy.

She said

Second Opinion

The new findings provide evidence that some scientists have long suspected, said Dr. Charles J. Weschler, an associate professor of environmental and occupational medicine at the university and a dental and Continue visiting professor at the Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen.

”It brings home the fact that many of these potential endocrine disrupting compounds are entering our bodies, in part due to indoor exposure,” he tells WebMD, Although he said some did come from food and drink.

”When you look at indoor concentrations of some of these compounds,” he said of the findings, “it doesn’t matter whether you live next to an oil refinery or in the woods. “

In a 1984 study, Weschler said he measured some of the same compounds. “In 1984, we didn’t realize these compounds were potential EDCs,” he said. At the time, they were treating these compounds as additives used in many products.

“I think this paper is a reminder to those who really don’t know that indoor exposures are for many of these compounds It’s really important,” he said.

“When you buy that new shower curtain with that strong smell [from plasticizers], some of those chemicals end up in your body, “He said.

How to avoid EDCs

Research is underway, and until more is known, Rudel said there are steps those concerned can take to reduce potential exposure to these compounds .

  • Generally reduce the use of EDC-containing products, such as cleaning products and makeup.
  • Avoid fabrics coated with anti-stain chemicals.
  • Avoid antibacterial soaps, which contain triclosan, an EDC.