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Smartplanet article: Office work increases toxicity in bloodstreams?

Not about microbes but there is an interesting article at Smartplanet on office environments: Office work increases toxicity in bloodstreams? | SmartPlanet.  It would be interesting to see whether these people have altered microbial communities in conjunction with increased toxins.

2 thoughts on “Smartplanet article: Office work increases toxicity in bloodstreams?

  1. One needs to be careful to avoid overgeneralizations. Contrary to the article’s title, it is not office work per se that appears to be the subject of the SmallPlanet article, but exposure to the chemicals released from building materials and, in the case of the polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs), most likely the furnishings.

    Fluorinated compounds are common in flame retardants are required by building codes to be in foam polystyrene thermal insulation used in exterior wall cavities and in foam cushions in furnishings. In fact, human exposure to PFCs is probably far higher in most homes than in the office environment due in part to the presence of more cushioned furniture including bed mattresses and the far higher ratio of exterior wall surface area to enclosed volume. Also, people generally spend far more time at home.

    Small planet, small thinking. Oversimplification is a temptation that writers must be careful to avoid.

    The reference to the air concentrations is interesting. PFCs have low volatility and the majority of the mass available to the indoor environment is usually in the dust and on all the room surfaces — floors, walls, and ceilings. Carpets have a very high available surface area due to the rough texture compared with gypsum board or other wall materials.

    There are currently a number of initiatives addressing the problems of SVOCs in general and flame retardants in particular. For more information, visit http://indair.org/index_files/Page277.htm and http://epa.gov/ncct/expocast/svoc_agenda.html.

  2. CORRECTION: PFCs are not flame retardants used in foams in furnishings or polystyrene insulations. Those are hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDs). The PFCs are used for stain repellancy, thus their use on carpets and furnishings. Some PFCs (such as “Perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs) [such as perfluorooctanoate (PFOA)] and perfluorinated sulfonates (PFSAs) [such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)]) have been used for over 50 years in the production of consumer products including carpet and upholstery stain-protectants, food-contact paper coatings, nonstick cookware, waterproofing sprays, and windshield wash.” Source: Fraser et al, 2011, “Polyfluorinated Compounds in Serum Linked to Indoor Air in Office Environments,” Environmental Science and Technology 46:1209−1215. This is the journal article on which the SmallPlanet post was based. (dx.doi.org/10.1021/es2038257).

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