Study finds potentially toxic chemicals in air at Boston offices

Typically when we think of workers being exposed to toxic substances on the job we think of construction workers or industrial workers. However, a new study from Boston University reveals that people who spend a lot of time in ordinary office buildings may have toxic chemicals in their bloodstreams.

The study, which was published in the current Environmental Science & Technology journal, concluded that it is common for offices to have carpeting, furniture and other fixtures treated with stain-resistant seals that contain polyfluorinated compounds, or PFCs.

Past studies have associated PFCs with reproductive, developmental and immune problems in both animals and humans. However, the BU study did not establish a connection between PCF exposure in offices and health problems.

The study was reportedly conducted in the Boston area and involved 31 adults who either lived or worked in office buildings. All of the buildings had closed-air ventilation systems with doors that were closed at night.

The study said that half of the offices were in older buildings that had been partly renovated in the past year, a quarter of the offices were in buildings that had been finished in the past year and a quarter of the offices were in older buildings that were not recently renovated.

The purpose of the study was to look at these different office environments and see what kinds of toxins were in the air. Researchers found that air in the newer buildings had the highest concentration of a PFC called fluorotelomer alcohol, or FTOH, while air in the older buildings had the lowest concentration of FTOH.

Hopefully, research like this continues and action is taken so that office workers are protected from these harmful toxins at the workplace.

Source: The Star, “PFC exposure: Office air exposes workers to potentially toxic chemicals: Boston University study,” John Goddard, Feb. 14, 2012