Is Your Office Toxic?

PFCs found in blood of office workers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Germs and sick coworkers may not be the only way to get sick in the office. Chemicals in the paint, furniture and carpet may be also causing you to get sick.

A new polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs) study has found elevated levels of Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in Boston office employees.

PFOA's may be potentially toxic to humans and has been shown to last a long time in the environment. Because of these concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working with manufacturers, such as DuPont, to eliminate PFOA use by 2015.

"When buying products with a stain guard, ask if it is PFC free. "

The study was led by Michael McClean, Sc.D., from the Boston University School of Public Health. Researchers studied 31 Boston office buildings during the winter of 2009. For one week, researchers collected air samples and blood samples from office employees.

Researchers discovered a possible connection between the presence of fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs) in the air and PFOA in the blood of office workers.

PFCs, in particular PFOA and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) have been used widely as a stain guard/repellent in fabrics, carpets and paint. There have been many studies involving PFCs in regards to the toxicity and environmental impact of the chemical.

While these studies vary, the EPA and manufacturers have made it a point to eliminate PFCs by 2015. The EPA has also set an advisory level for PFOA at 0.4 parts per billion for drinking water.

FTOHs are found in the air and can degrade into PFOA in the bloodstream. Researchers also tested the air for sulfonamides (FOSAs) and sulfonamidoethanols (FOSEs), which can also degrade into PFOA or PFOS.

FTOH was a strong predictor of PFOA concentration in the blood of office employees according to the study. FOSAs and FOSEs were not associated with PFOS in the blood. A newly constructed office building had the highest concentration of FTOHs in the air.

This study is important because it helps get a better understanding of where potential sources of PFOA may originate. If there are elevated levels of PFOA's due to exposure in the office, new measures can be taken to reduce the risk of increased PFOA exposure.

This study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. No conflicts were published.

The study was published in the January edition of Environmental Science & Technology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 23, 2012
Last Updated:
February 2, 2012