21.06.2021

Kitchen cabinets can release cancer-causing chemicals

It’s probably the last place you would expect to find cancer-causing chemicals.

But researchers have found kitchen cabinets can contain polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs).

The toxins – a known human carcinogen – are released when sealant used in modern cabinets breaks down over time.

It's probably the last place you would expect to find cancer-causing chemicals. But researchers have found kitchen cabinets can contain PCBs

It’s probably the last place you would expect to find cancer-causing chemicals. But researchers have found kitchen cabinets can contain PCBs

Scientists at the University of Iowa tested air samples from inside and outside 16 homes in the US state.

They discovered levels of three PCBs, which were banned for use in goods in 1979 in America, were higher than expected.

Concentrations were higher in newer houses than older ones, which were more likely to use PCB producing goods.

Upon closer inspection, they found emissions coming from stoves, floors and walls.

However, the team led by Professor Keri Hornbuckle also spotted PCBs wafting off the finished kitchen cabinetry.

They believe that the toxins stem from the decomposition of 2,4-dichlorobenzoyl peroxide, a common ingredient in sealants.

WHAT ARE PCBS?

PCBs are classified by the World Health Organization as known human carcinogens. Their manufacture was banned in the US and UK four decades ago.

They were mass produced by Monsanto, the US agricultural giant, for 42 years before the decision was made to stop doing so.

Studies have shown that PCBs, of which there are around 210 variations, can alter liver function can even affect reproductive system.

Newcastle University researchers last year found ‘extraordinary’ levels of the pollutant in the Mariana trench – the deepest part of the ocean.

Around 1.3 million tonnes of PCBs were produced before they were banned – but some scientists estimate a third of this has leaked into the environment.

PCBs are classified by the World Health Organization as known human carcinogens. Their manufacture was banned in the US and UK four decades ago.

They were mass produced by Monsanto, the US agricultural giant, for 42 years before the decision was made to stop doing so.

Monsanto has been embroiled in controversy after documents apparently showed it was aware of the deadly risks 10 years before PCBs were banned.

The new experiment, which monitored air samples over a period of 16 weeks, bring light to a previously unknown source of PCBS.

Professor Hornbuckle and colleagues published their results in the scientific journal Environmental Science Technology.

They received funding from the Superfund Research Program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Studies have shown that PCBs, of which there are around 210 variations, can alter liver function can even affect reproductive system.

Newcastle University researchers last year found ‘extraordinary’ levels of the pollutant in the Mariana trench – the deepest part of the ocean.

Around 1.3 million tonnes of PCBs were produced before they were banned – but some scientists estimate a third of this has leaked into the environment.

PCBs, also linked to learning difficulties in children, were used in coolants in transformers and capacitors and were hailed for not decomposing easily.

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