Office Air Exposes Workers to Risk of Toxic PFCs

Indoor air in office buildings has been shown to be a significant source of exposure to potentially toxic substances called polyfluorinated compounds in workers, according to a study.

PFCs are used in water-repellent coatings and can be released by carpeting, furniture, paint and other similar items. Exposure to them is widespread and can have negative effects on human health, according to a press release.

The researchers, led by Michael McClean, MD, associate professor from the Boston University School of Public Health, wanted to examine the role of indoor office air on the levels of PFCs in a person’s blood. They collected air samples from 31 offices in Boston in the winter of 2009. They then collected serum from participants within each office and tested it for 12 different types of PFCs.

They found that levels of fluorotelomer alcohol (FTOH), a type of PFC, were 3 to 5 times higher in office air compared with previous studies of household air. Higher levels of FTOH were associated with a higher concentration of perfluorooctanoic acid, a metabolite of FTOH, in the participants’ blood. The results suggest that office buildings represent a unique and important exposure environment to PFCs.

The researchers also found that workers in newly renovated buildings had a higher risk for exposure. The study was published in Environmental Science and Technology.

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