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Office Air Study Shows Health Concern

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It’s bad enough that most of us have to work in an office environment.  It’s not just the caddy gossip or grumpy bosses we have contented with, but the health risks associated with working in an office.  A new study that was recently released reports that the indoor air quality of an office exposes workers to toxic substances.  The report documents a link between levels of polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in office air, and in the blood levels of office workers.  The report appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, and was authored by researchers at the Boston University (BU).  PFCs are used in water-repellent coatings on carpet and furniture, and can have an adverse effect on humans.  Scientists know that potential sources of exposure include food, water, indoor air, indoor dust and direct contact with PFC-containing objects. But the link between levels in air and blood had not been explored previously, so the BU group set out to fill that gap with a study of 31 office workers in Boston. 
Following week-long, active air sampling in 31 offices in Boston, they found concentrations of a PFC called fluorotelomer alcohol (FTOH) in office air that were 3 to 5 times higher than those reported in previous studies of household air, “suggesting that offices may represent a unique and important exposure environment.” 
The results also suggested that workers in newly renovated office buildings may receive considerably higher doses of PFCs than workers in older buildings.  PFCs eventually dissipate as carpeting and furniture age and are used in newly refurbished buildings.

Photo Credit: John Vlahakis

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