"This research illustrates how science is beginning to play a paramount role in discovering and redefining environmental problems that are not immediately perceptible through direct experience," Altman said. "Pollution at home has been a blind spot for society. The study documents that an important shift occurs in how people understand environmental pollution, its sources and possible solutions as they learn about chemicals from everyday products that are detectable in urine samples and the household dust collecting under the sofa."
Though some scientists and government officials worry such information will provoke fears, the interdisciplinary team discovered that people who learned about chemicals in their homes and bodies were not alarmed and were eager for more, not less, information about how typical household products can expose them to chemicals that may affect health.
The researchers interviewed 25 women, all of whom had participated in an earlier study, the Silent Spring Institute's Household Exposure Study (HES), which tested for 89 environmental pollutants in air, dust and urine samples from 120 Cape Cod households. The study found about 20 target chemicals per home on average, including pesticides and compounds from plastics, cleaners, furniture, cosmetics, and other products. Nearly all participants in the HES chose to learn their personal results, and the 25 selected for the current research were interviewed about their experiences learning the results for their home and the study as a whole.
This new study is among the first to apply the tools and perspectives of sociology to biomonitoring and exposure assessment research, and is the first to investigate the experience of personal results-reporting in a study of a wide range of contaminants. According to the researchers, the Household Exposure Study has set an example that is shifting scientific practice
|Contact: Deborah Baum|