Yellow Dyes, Inks And Paints Could Be Dangerous To Your Health
February 24, 2014

Yellow Dyes, Inks And Paints Could Be Dangerous To Your Health

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Fear may be the last thing on your mind when you see the color yellow. However, a new study from researchers at Rutgers University has found that those yellow items on your office desk, in your dresser or in the linen closet may be hazardous to your health.

A group of once common chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were banned in the US and Canada more than 30 years ago, but one form of the chemical – PCB-11 – linked to yellow dye is still widely found in everyday household items. And now, the new research finds that this chemical has long been seeping into our bloodstream, air and water supply.

This yellow dye is commonly found in paper, clothing, bed and bath linens, inks and paints, notes study author Lisa Rodenburg, associate professor in environmental chemistry at Rutgers. And while Rodenburg maintains that further study is needed on the toxicity of PCB-11, previous studies have linked PCBs in general to birth defects, developmental disabilities in children, skin irritation, acne and even cancer.

"PCBs cause a whole range of really worrisome health problems," Rodenburg said in an interview with Liz Fields on ABC’s Good Morning America. "There is enough evidence that there could be health effects from this specific kind of PCB that we should investigate further."

There is no easy solution for this problem either. While the US moved to ban all PCBs in the 1970s, PCB-11 is exempt because it is considered an unintentional byproduct of the pigment manufacturing process.

"It's out there in levels that are worrisome," Rodenburg said in an interview with Environmental Health News. "Even at the parts per billion levels, if you find it in almost everything you test, that means people are in almost constant contact."

"If they are in the air and one breathes them in every day, there will be continuous exposure to what I suspect are very toxic substances," Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albay-SUNY, told Environmental Health News.

Rodenburg said these chemicals are continuing to leach into the air and water and eventually make their way into human bodies.

"That's the scariest thing about this," Michelle Noehres, a concerned mother, told ABC News. "We're talking about the color yellow, which is in so many things. You can't really shop your way out of that."

"We know that everyone is going to be exposed to these things sooner than later. You can't really avoid contact with every printed material in the world," Rodenburg said. "The PCBs get out of that printed material and they get into the air, so whether you like it or not everyone is breathing this stuff in."

The Toxic Substances Control Act was passed by Congress in 1979 after PCBs were found in fish and wildlife, but because PCB-11 could not be kept out of the manufacture process a legal loophole was created to permit the chemical’s production during the manufacturing process.

"Technically speaking these PCBs are banned," Rodenburg told GMA. "These chemical pigments are covered under TOSCA. It is just they are allowed at very low levels."

While the finding is of some concern, Rodenburg maintained that the chemical is not found in every yellow item found on the market -- albeit most.

Rodenburg and her colleagues tested common consumer goods and found PCB-11 in all 16 articles of yellow-printed clothing they tested, as well as all 28 paper samples they tested, which ranged from maps and magazines to newspaper and postcards. As well, the team found the chemical in 15 out of 18 paper goods manufactured in the US.

Perhaps more alarming is the fact that the chemical is also commonly found in food packaging, according to a separate study published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

"I don't think that people should be terrified of this, but I think it is important to be aware of what is going on and to try to do something about it through the law," Rodenburg told GMA.