Yellow Dyes may Contain Toxic Chemicals

First Posted: Feb 24, 2014 10:49 AM EST

Researchers from Rutgers University have discovered that many dyes found in common household items could contain potentially hazardous chemicals that may pose a threat to our health.

"It's out there in levels that are worrisome," said associate professor in environmental chemistry at the university and one of the study authors, Lisa Rodenburg, via Scientific American ."Even at the parts per billion levels, if you find it in almost everything you test, that means people are in almost constant contact," she said.

The study authors examined a chemical that's typically found in yellow dyes, including such products as paint, clothing, printing inks and even paper. Though researchers are uncertain about the level of toxicity involving the dyes, previous studies have linked PCBs to a higher risk of birth defects, irritations, cancer and even developmental issues in some children.

"PCBs cause a whole range of really worrisome health problems," Rodenburg said, via ABC News. "There is enough evidence that there could be health effects from this specific kind of PCB that we should investigate further."  

For their study, the researchers tested common consumer goods that are typically found in PCB 11 and 16 pieces of yellow-printed clothing. Twenty-eight of the samples tested also included products containing ink, such as glossy magazine advertisements, colored newsprint and postcards. Lastly, the study also discovered the chemical in 15 out of 18 paper goods that are manufactured in the United States.

Though congress passed the Toxic Substances Act in 1979 that banned PCBs after the compound began showing up in fish and other wildlife, Rodenburg said that as there was no way to properly regulate the production of the chemical, a legal loophole was created for accidental creation of the substance. 

"I don't think that people should be terrified of this, but I think it is important to be aware of what is going on and to try to do something about it through the law," Rodenburg said, via the news organization.

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More information regarding the study can be found via the journal Environmental Health Perspectives

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