July 11, 2008

Contamination a Tough Problem


Be careful what you let in your home, says a researcher who studies indoor air and dust contamination.

"It ends up being part of your environment," said Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass. "You end up breathing it, and it gets on your hands."

It's a tough problem for consumers to deal with, she said, because products are not always labeled with the chemicals they contain.

She recommends using natural fibers such as wool for flame resistance, avoiding stain-resistant fabrics, and using cast-iron or enamel-covered cookware rather than nonstick surfaces.

Choose natural fabric over vinyl for your shower curtain and mattress cover, she said, and seal cracks and use traps for pest control.

"That's number one," she said. "Get rid of pesticides."

To avoid dust contaminated with flame retardants and other chemicals, she suggests vacuuming and dusting using methods that limit resuspension of small particles into the air - such as using a wet or magnet-style cloth.

Her recommendations come as the result of tests the institute conducted on 120 homes on Massachusetts' Cape Cod.

The study was conducted in an area with elevated incidences of breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancers to test for exposure to endocrine-disrupting compounds that can mimic or interfere with hormones.

The study found 67 chemicals commonly found in household products, with an average of 26 per home. Chemicals from plastics, detergents and personal-care products were the most abundant, but the researchers found 27 pesticides, including DDT, which was banned in 1972.

Originally published by Times-Dispatch Staff Writer.

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