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Pesticide POISONS linger in our homes, whether we use them or not.

Posted Jun 17 2009 7:47pm
Pesticides linger in homes, whether we use them or not.

A new study shows that pesticides, some already banned for decades from the US market, continue to persist in homes. Ongoing exposures to these pesticides should be considered in health risk assessments. Children could be at particular risk given their more frequent contact with flooring.

What did they do?

Technicians wiped hard surface floors with alcohol wipes to collect dust samples that could be analyzed for insecticide residues. Samples were taken from 500 homes across the US.

Most often, swipes were taken from kitchen floor surfaces away from heavy foot traffic and immediate cooking areas (i.e. in front of the stove).

The swipes were analyzed for 24 current and past use residential insecticides in the organochlorine, organophosphate, pyrethroid and phenylpyrazole classes, and the insecticide synergist piperonyl butoxide.

What did they find?

All 24 insecticides tested for were found in some of the homes.

Fipronil and permethrin, both currently used, were found in 40 percent and 89 percent of homes respectively.

DDT and chlordane – two pesticides that have been banned for decades – were found in 42 percent and 74 percent of homes respectively. DDE, the breakdown product of DDT, was found in 33 percent of homes.

Chlorpyrifos and diazinon, both no longer permitted for residential use for several years, were detected in 78 percent and 35 percent of homes respectively.

The currently used pyrethroid pesticides were found at the highest levels but concentrations varied greatly among houses and among different chemical types. Organochlorines and organophosphates were measured at much lower and fairly consistent levels among the houses tested.

What does it mean?

This study shows that many insecticides, some of which have been banned for decades from the US market, continue to persist in homes. .

The persistence of now-banned pesticides, and emerging health concerns for current use pesticides such as permethrins and fipronil, highlight the need to further assess the dangers of the pesticides Americans are currently using. The authors point out that the "high detection frequencies observed for chlordane, chlorpyrifos, and permethrin suggest these compounds are essentially ubiquitous in our living areas and that popular use, both past and present, has a major influence on their occurrence in homes."

Adults and children living in these homes are most likely exposed to the chemicals, but at unknown levels and effects. Children could be at particular health risk given their more frequent contact with flooring. Since long-banned pesticides linger in US homes, future generations could also be exposed to them.

These newly-identified exposures should be considered in health risk assessments that guide public safety regulations, the authors recommend.

Despite their decades-long bans, DDT and chlordane (one of the three most frequently detected insecticides) were still present in many homes. DDT was found in a higher percentage of homes than DDE, its breakdown product. This could mean that DDT isn’t degraded well in homes due to a lack of sunlight or microbes. It could also mean that US residents are being exposed to current sources of DDT.

The currently used pyrethroids were the most common insecticides detected and also occurred at the highest levels – the insecticide permethrin had one of the highest concentrations measured. More surprising to the authors were the levels of chlorpyrifos, which seemed "elevated" considering it is no longer available for residential use

Permethrin was also found in nearly 90 percent of homes tested. This is a concern as research shows the chemical can damage human sperm and alter the production of hormones in animals. Beyond that, little is known about human exposure to and effects of permethrin. More research is needed given the high percentage of US homes with measurable amounts of this chemical on the flooring.

This study established a baseline for frequency and amounts of pesticides that can assist regulators in understanding the types and levels of common contaminants people are currently exposed to. Research such as this helps to identify household factors that could contribute to health concerns in the US. http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/pesticides-linger-in-homes
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