- NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - Warning: Your house could be hazardous to your health. New study
results from Europe show that exposure to benzene, a cancer-causing chemical
produced by car exhaust, may be greatest at home -- not outside during
rush hour when the roads are jammed.
- Carpets, wood and other absorbent materials may raise
indoor pollution levels by trapping the chemical in the home, according
to a report in the March 9th issue of the journal Nature.
- Long-term exposure to benzene released by cars is responsible
for about 4 cases of leukemia for every 1 million people, according to
a team of researchers led by Dr. Vincenzo Cocheo, of the Fondazione Salvatore
Maugeri-IRCCS in Padova, Italy. To measure exposure to benzene, Cocheo's
team equipped 50 volunteers in six European cities with air samplers to
be worn continuously for 5 days.
- All participants were nonsmokers and represented a mix
of occupations exposed to high levels of traffic fumes, such as traffic
police officers, and those exposed to low levels, such as office workers.
- Even though levels of benzene in outdoor air tended to
be higher in cities in southern Europe, indoor exposure to benzene was
higher in northern Europe than in all but one of the southern cities, according
to the report. The researchers estimate that people spend nearly 60% of
the day at home, making the impact of indoor pollution important.
- According to Cocheo's team, benzene most likely enters
the home from outside air, and then becomes trapped inside by absorbent
- ``This idea is supported by the lower indoor pollution
in southern European towns. In northern European houses, carpets, linoleum
and wood surfaces are favored, whereas tiling, marble and bare walls are
typically used in southern Europe,'' the authors conclude.
- Unfortunately, the best way to reduce benzene levels
is to remove carpets and other absorbent materials from the home, according
to Cocheo. However, he told Reuters Health that opening windows and doors
to ventilate your home may reduce benzene levels. But there is a catch.
Benzene levels in outside air peak during the day, when more cars are on
the road, so it is better to ventilate your house at night, when levels
are lower, Cocheo advised. SOURCE: Nature 2000;404:141-142.
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