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Long-banned Chemical Found in Yellow Dye: How Concerned Should We Be?

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Click here to watch the video (jump to 3:15 for a discussion on yellow dye) >>

Research from Rutgers University has found that traces of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) 11—which belongs to a harmful group of chemicals banned in the 1970s—are prevalent in yellow paints and dyes contained in many items we come into contact with daily, such as clothing and paper.

While relatively little is known about PCB-11 itself, we know that some very similar chemicals in the PCB family have serious health effects. Children are especially at risk: PCBs can impact child development, interfere with hormones in the body, and can potentially cause cancer. This study found that PCB-11 appears in many things children may routinely be exposed to, such as finger paints and clothing.

Dr. Aaron Bernstein, Associate Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment and Pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital, spoke with FOX News Boston to lend insight into how concerned we should be about everyday objects in our house. (Note: Jump to 3:15 the discussion on PCB-11).

While Dr. Bernstein notes that the findings of the study are concerning, the real lesson is that we need a fresh start when it comes to how chemicals get into our environment. The discovery of PCB-11 in yellow pigments serves as a reminder that we know very little about whether many chemicals that are widespread in the environment are safe.

“How does that happen?” asks Dr. Bernstein. “The answer is that we have a ‘buy now, pay later’ approach to chemicals in this country. Chemicals too often get into use in everyday products, and then we learn later whether or not they are safe.”

For more information about Rutgers' research and PCB-11, check out the article "Yellow pigments in clothing, paper contain long-banned PCB," written Brian Bienkowski and published by Environmental Health News. Read more >>

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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