Kitchen cabinets could leach harmful chemical compounds into the air

April 18 (UPI) — The attack of the chemical cabinets is no joke. While investigating sources of polychlorinated biphenyl compounds inside the home, scientists identified airborne PCBs being emitted by kitchen cabinetry.

Researchers believe the harmful chemical compounds are a byproduct of the breakdown of a common sealant used in modern kitchen cabinetry.

Previous studies have linked PCBs with a variety of health problems, including delayed cognitive development in children. The compounds are considered a carcinogen and have been linked with breast cancer in adults. PCB exposure is also believed to disrupt the body’s various hormonal systems and processes.

The manufacturing of PCBs was banned in 1979, but the compounds are slow to decay and stick around in the environment. As a result, they’re still found in a variety of settings, including offices and schools.

As part of the most recent research effort, scientists searched for PCBs inside 16 homes in Iowa. Scientists analyzed air collected by passive air samplers deployed over six weeks. Scientists were surprised to find elevated levels of neurotoxic PCB-47 and PCB-51, as well as PCB-68.

Researchers found higher concentrations of the compounds in houses that were built more recently. Followup surveys revealed the source of the toxins — the PCBs were found wafting from kitchen cabinets.

The findings were published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

“We hypothesize that these congeners are inadvertent byproducts of polymer sealant manufacturing and produced from the decomposition of 2,4-dichlorobenzoyl peroxide used as an initiator in free-radical polymerization of polyester resins,” researchers wrote. “The presence of these three compounds in polymer products, such as silicone, has been widely noted, but to our knowledge they have never been shown to be a significant environmental source of PCBs.”