Fact Sheets

Learn where chemicals are found and possible ways to reduce exposure

An example of a fact sheet

For chemicals measured by Biomonitoring California and some other chemicals, we prepare fact sheets that briefly describe:

  • Where a chemical is found
  • Possible health concerns of the chemical
  • Possible ways to reduce exposure to the chemical

These fact sheets are included in the packet given to project participants when they receive their individual test results.  Fact sheets are available for the chemicals listed below.  Click on a chemical name to view a fact sheet, or click on the pdf icon to download a fact sheet.

Fact Sheets

Arsenic

Download:

ArsenicFactSheet.pdf

Arsenic is found in soil and water in some areas, and in some foods. It occurs naturally and from human activity. Arsenic compounds were used extensively as pesticides and wood preservatives, but these uses have been mostly phased out. There are different forms of arsenic, some of which may cause health problems and others that are not a health concern.

Arsenic is found in

  • Some foods, including:
    • Seafood, especially shellfish.  The main form of arsenic in seafood is not considered to be a health concern.
    • Rice and foods with rice-based ingredients, such as some hot and cold cereals, some infant formulas, and rice cakes.  Rice plants can take up arsenic from water or soil.
    • Hijiki seaweed (short, black, noodle-like seaweed).
  • Some drinking water sources, such as in some places in the Central Valley and Southern California. 
  • Some pressure-treated wood used in outdoor structures, such as decks and playground equipment.  Arsenic-treated wood was phased out in 2004.
  • Cigarette smoke.
  • Additive(s) put in some chicken and turkey feed to prevent parasites.
  • Some herbal medicines and other traditional remedies, especially from China and India.
  • Some herbicides in limited use on golf courses, cotton, and at sod-growing facilities.

Possible health concerns of arsenic

Some forms of arsenic:

  • May harm the developing fetus.
  • May harm the nervous system and may affect learning in children.
  • May contribute to cardiovascular disease and may affect lung function.
  • Can increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to forms of arsenic that may affect health

  • Include plenty of variety in your and your child’s diet.
  • Breastfeed your infant if you can.  Include alternatives to rice-based foods in your infant’s diet.
  • Do not burn older pressure-treated wood (manufactured before 2004) and avoid using it for home projects.
  • Have children wash their hands after they play on or around older wooden playground equipment or decks.  If you own the equipment or deck, apply a sealant or coating every one to two years.
  • If your water comes from a private well, have it tested for arsenic.  (If your water comes from a public water supplier, it is already tested regularly for arsenic.)

Biomonitoring California webpage on Arsenic.

Benzophenone-3 (Oxybenzone)

Download:

FactSheet-Benzophenone3.pdf

Benzophenone-3 (oxybenzone) is used in many sunscreens and some other personal care products to protect skin from sun damage.  Benzophenone-3 is also added to packaging and some consumer products, such as cosmetics and paints, to protect the products from sun damage.

Benzophenone-3 is found in

  • Many sunscreens.
  • Sun-protective personal care products, such as some lotions, lip balms, and cosmetics.
  • Some perfumes, shampoos, conditioners, and nail polish.
  • Plastic packaging for some food and consumer products.
  • Some protective coatings, such as varnish and oil-based paint.

Possible health concerns of benzophenone-3

Scientists are still studying how benzophenone-3 may affect people’s health.  There is concern that benzophenone-3:

  • May interfere with the body’s natural hormones.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to benzophenone-3

  • Wash off sunscreen and sun-protective products once you are out of the sun.
  • Eat more fresh food and less packaged food, which might help reduce exposure to benzophenone-3 from some plastic packaging.

Importance of sun safety

Sun exposure is known to damage skin and increase cancer risk.  Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen is only one of the important ways to shield against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.  You should also:

  • Reduce or avoid exposure to direct sunlight when UV rays are strongest, usually between 10 am and 4 pm.  When possible, seek shade.
  • Wear protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Benzophenone-3 (Oxybenzone).

Bisphenol A (BPA)

Download:

BisphenolAFactSheet.pdf

BPA is used to make protective coatings, like the linings in metal food cans that prevent rust and corrosion.  Some receipts, such as from cash registers or gas pumps, may contain BPA.  BPA is also used to make a hard plastic called polycarbonate.

BPA is found in

    • The coatings inside some food and drink cans.
    • Some hard plastic food and drink containers, which might be labeled with the number “7” or “PC” on the bottom.
    • Some older plastic baby bottles and sippy cups.  Use of BPA in these products officially ended in the U.S. in July 2012.
    • Some plastic stretch wrap used to cover or package food.
    • Some receipts, such as from cash registers or gas pumps.

Possible health concerns of BPA

  • May affect the fetus and infant, including possible changes in development and behavior.
  • May interfere with the body’s natural hormones.
  • May affect reproductive function.
  • Might increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to BPA

  • Eat more fresh food and less canned food.
  • Use glass or stainless steel containers to store food and liquids.
  • Avoid using plastic containers for hot food or drinks.  Avoid microwaving plastic containers.
  • Breastfeed your infant if you can.  For bottle-feeding, use glass bottles. 
  • Wash your and your children's hands before eating or drinking. BPA can get on your hands from items you touch, like receipts.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Bisphenol A (BPA).

Cadmium

Download:

CadmiumFactSheet.pdf

Cadmium is a metal that is found in nature and is used in many industries and products.

Cadmium is found in

  • Cigarette and other tobacco smoke.
  • Some cheap metal jewelry, including some charms.
  • Rechargeable batteries labeled NiCd or NiCad.
  • Metal plating and solder.
  • Some red, yellow, and orange decorative paints, which may be used on glassware and pottery.

Possible health concerns

Cadmium:

  • May affect brain development in young children.
  • Can damage the lungs and kidneys.
  • Can increase lung cancer risk.
  • Can weaken bones.

Possible ways to reduce exposure

  • Do not smoke or let children breathe cigarette or other tobacco smoke.
  • Do not let children wear or play with cheap metal jewelry or charms.
  • Do not let children handle rechargeable batteries labeled NiCd or NiCad.
  • Properly recycle batteries (see below).
  • If you do any welding or metalworking, be sure that your work area is well ventilated and use proper protective equipment.
  • Keep children away from welding fumes and other metal vapors and dusts.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with adequate iron, which can help reduce the amount of cadmium that your body absorbs.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Cadmium.

Cobalt

Download:

CobaltFactSheet.pdf

Cobalt is part of vitamin B12, which is essential to keep the body’s nervous system and red blood cells healthy.  It is safe to ingest cobalt when it is part of vitamin B12, and it is normal and healthy to have some cobalt in the body as a result.  Cobalt metal and cobalt compounds other than vitamin B12 can be toxic.  Cobalt metal is used in alloys that resist wear and corrosion.  Cobalt compounds provide a blue color used in paint, glass, and other products.  

Cobalt metal and cobalt compounds, other than vitamin B12, are found in:

  • Metal alloys used in a variety of applications, such as:
    • Artificial joints for the hip and knee.
    • Hard metal tools, including cobalt-tungsten carbide tools, for drilling, cutting, and grinding hard materials like stone or concrete.
    • Some rechargeable batteries.
  • Blue-colored pigments used for many products, including paint, glass, candles, and dish detergents.

Possible health concerns of cobalt metal and cobalt compounds, other than vitamin B12

Cobalt metal and cobalt compounds other than vitamin B12:

  • Can harm the heart, thyroid, and nervous system.
  • Can cause sensitivity in the lungs and skin, including allergies.
  • May increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to cobalt metal and cobalt compounds, other than vitamin B12

  • If you have a metal hip or knee replacement, follow your doctor’s advice for monitoring metals, including cobalt, in your blood.
  • If you work with cobalt or cobalt-based tools, like cobalt-tungsten carbide tools, be sure your work area is well-ventilated and use proper protective equipment.  Follow other safe work practices, including washing hands frequently, keeping work dust out of your home, and washing work clothes separately.
  • Avoid taking dietary supplements containing cobalt in forms other than vitamin B12. 

Biomonitoring California webpage on Cobalt.

2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D)

Download:

24D_FactSheet.pdf

2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) is widely used to control weeds in agriculture, recreational areas, lawns and gardens, and along roadsides and railroad tracks.

2,4-D is found in

  • Some home lawn products labeled as weed killers and for “weed and feed” use.
  • Commercial weed control products used along roadsides and railroad tracks, and in recreational areas such as golf courses, athletic fields, and parks.
  • Some herbicides for crops such as wheat, almonds, and some citrus and stone fruits.

Possible health concerns of 2,4-D

Scientists are still studying how 2,4-D might affect people’s health.  There is concern that 2,4-D:

  • May interfere with the body’s natural hormones.
  • May harm the developing fetus.
  • May increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to 2,4-D

  • Use non-chemical methods to control weeds, such as regular mowing and hand-weeding.
  • If you choose to use a weed killer, spot-treat problem areas and follow warning statements on the label.  After application:
    • Remove shoes before entering your house; remove clothes that are soiled during application and launder them separately.
    • Limit access to 2,4-D treated areas, at least until the product has completely dried; for children and pets, limit access for one to two days or longer if possible.
    • Look for posted notices that indicate an area (such as a park or athletic field) has been treated with a weed killer and follow any precautions on the notice.

Biomonitoring California webpage on 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D).

Lead

Download:

LeadFactSheet.pdf

Lead is a metal that is found in nature and is used in many industries and products. 

Lead is widespread in the environment and is found in

  • Peeling paint and dust in and around homes built before 1978 (when lead was banned in house paint).
  • Bare soil around homes built before 1978 and near roadways.
  • Job sites or hobby areas, such as construction and painting sites, shooting ranges, and electronics, battery and scrap metal recycling facilities.
  • Some candies and spices from  Mexico and Asia, and some brightly colored traditional remedies such as Azarcon and Greta.
  • Many consumer products, including:
      • Some ceramic dishes and pottery; some pewter and crystal pitchers and goblets.
      • Some baby bibs, electrical cords, purses, garden hoses and other products made of vinyl or imitation leather.
      • Some toys, art supplies, costume jewelry, cosmetics, and hair dyes.
      • Some brass faucets,  fishing sinkers, and curtain weights.

Possible health concerns of lead

  • Can affect brain development and contribute to learning problems in infants and young children.
  • Can increase blood pressure, decrease kidney and brain function, and cause reproductive problems.
  • May increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to lead

  • Keep children away from chipped and peeling paint.  Use a certified professional if you plan to permanently remove or seal lead-based paint.
  • Cover bare soil with grass, bark, or gravel, especially near homes built before 1978.
  • If you work with lead or do house renovation, use proper protective gear. Keep work dust out of your home. Shower after working. Wash work clothes separately.
  • Use cold water for drinking or cooking to reduce release of lead from some faucets and old pipes.
  • Wash your and your children’s hands before eating or drinking.
  • Clean your floors regularly, using a wet mop where you can, and dust with a damp cloth.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with adequate calcium, iron, and vitamin C, which can help reduce the amount of lead that your body absorbs.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Lead.

Manganese

Download:

ManganeseFactSheet.pdf

Manganese is an essential nutrient that we get mainly from food.  It is normal and healthy to have some manganese in the body.  Manganese is also a metal used in many industries and products.  The most common way to be exposed to excess manganese is through jobs that involve working with metals, such as welding.

Manganese is found in

  • Certain foods, such as nuts, grains, beans, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Some drinking water sources.
  • Certain metal alloys, such as steel.
  • Some welding rods.
  • Certain chemicals used in agriculture to kill fungus.

Manganese is an essential nutrient

  • Some manganese is needed to support many vital processes in the body, such as building bones and healing wounds.

Possible health concerns of too much manganese

Too much manganese:

  • May be associated with learning and behavior problems in children.
  • Can harm memory, thinking, mood, and balance in adults.

Possible ways to avoid exposure to too much manganese

  • Eat a well-balanced diet with adequate iron, which can help you maintain a healthy level of manganese.
  • If you do any welding or metalworking, be sure that your work area is well ventilated and use proper protective equipment.
  • Keep children away from welding fumes and other metal vapors and dusts.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Manganese.

Mercury

Download:

MercuryFactSheet.pdf

Mercury is a metal that is found in nature. It is released into the environment when coal is burned, by some industries, and from past use in gold mines. Mercury builds up in certain types of fish.

Mercury is found in

  • Certain types of fish and seafood.  This is the most common source of exposure to mercury.
  • Some imported face creams used for skin lightening, anti-aging, or acne.
  • Silver-colored dental fillings.
  • Glass thermometers, older barometers, and blood pressure gauges.
  • Fluorescent lights, including compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.

Possible health concerns of mercury

  • Can affect brain development and cause learning and behavior problems in infants and children who were exposed in the womb.
  • Can harm the nervous system and kidneys.
  • May affect the heart.
  • May increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to mercury

  • Choose fish that are lower in mercury, such as salmon, tilapia, trout, canned light tuna, sardines, anchovies, and oysters.
  • Avoid fish that are high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, orange roughy, bluefin, and bigeye tuna.
  • Do not use imported skin-lightening, acne treatment, or anti-aging creams unless you are certain that they do not contain mercury.
  • Properly recycle CFL bulbs (see below).
  • Properly clean up broken thermometers, CFL bulbs, and other items containing mercury (see below).  Do not let children play with silver liquid from items like mercury thermometers.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Mercury.

Molybdenum

Download:

MolybdenumFactSheet.pdf

Molybdenum is an essential nutrient that we get mainly from food.  It is normal and healthy to have some molybdenum in the body.  Molybdenum is also a metal used in alloys, such as steel, to improve durability.  Molybdenum compounds are added as flame retardants to some plastics.

Molybdenum is found in:

  • Certain foods, including legumes (beans, lentils, and peanuts), nuts, rice, and liver.
  • Some dietary supplements.
  • Metal alloys used for a variety of applications, including:
    • Artificial joints for the hip and knee.
    • Welding supplies and equipment.
  • Flame retardants for some plastics, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic.

Molybdenum is an essential nutrient

  • A small amount of molybdenum, easily obtained from the diet, is needed to support many vital processes in the body.

Possible health concerns of too much molybdenum

Too much molybdenum:

  • May cause gout-like symptoms, such as joint pain.
  • May harm reproductive function in men.

Possible ways to avoid exposure to too much molybdenum

  • If you have a metal hip or knee replacement, follow your doctor’s advice for monitoring metals, including molybdenum, in your blood.
  • If you work with molybdenum or do any welding or metalworking, be sure that your work area is well ventilated and use proper protective equipment.  Follow other safe work practices, including washing hands frequently, keeping work dust out of your home, and washing work clothes separately.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Molybdenum.

N,N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (DEET)

Download:

DEET_FactSheet.pdf

DEET is used to repel biting insects, primarily mosquitos and ticks. 

DEET is found in

  • Insect repellent products in many forms, such as sprays, sticks, lotions, and towelettes.

Possible health concerns

DEET is a widely used insect repellent with very little indication of health concerns when used as directed.  However, there is some information that DEET:
    • May increase the potential for some pesticides to affect the nervous system if you apply DEET and spray pesticide(s) in your house or yard at the same time.

Possible ways to reduce exposure

  • Reduce your use of insect repellents by wearing long sleeves, long pants, socks, and a hat.  Tightly-woven materials are more protective.  Use mosquito netting when appropriate.

  • Reduce mosquitos around your home and garden by:
      • Installing or repairing screens on windows and doors.
      • Emptying standing pools of water, such as in buckets, wheelbarrows, and tarps.

  • If you use products containing DEET:
      • Always read and follow all directions on the label.
      • Use just enough DEET to cover exposed skin and, if needed, the outside of clothing.  Using more repellent does not increase its effectiveness.
      • Apply sprays in well-ventilated areas or outside.  Do not spray directly onto your face.  Spray on hands first and then apply to face.
      • Do not apply on cuts or irritated skin.
      • Parents should apply DEET to children’s skin.  Do not apply to children’s hands or allow children to handle DEET products.  Do not use on infants younger than 2 months of age.
      • Wash off DEET once it is no longer needed.
      • Wash clothing sprayed with DEET before wearing it again.

  • If you use both DEET and sunscreen:
      • It is generally recommended to apply sunscreen first. Follow directions on how often to reapply the two products.
      • Wash off DEET and sunscreen when they are no longer needed.

Biomonitoring California webpage on N,N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (DEET).

4-t-Octylphenol

Download:

4-t-OctylphenolFactSheet.pdf

4-t-Octylphenol is an industrial chemical used to make rubber products, such as tires.  It is also used to make detergents and other products, such as adhesives and inks.

4-t-Octylphenol is found in

  • Rubber products, like tires.
  • Recycled rubber products, including artificial turf for athletic fields and playgrounds and rubber gardening mulch.
  • Some detergents, adhesives, inks, paints, and varnishes.

Possible health concerns of 4-t-octylphenol

Scientists are still studying how 4-t-octylphenol may affect people’s health.  There is concern that 4-t-octylphenol:

  • May interfere with the body’s natural hormones.
  • May affect the reproductive system.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to 4-t-octylphenol

  • Based on studies conducted so far, exposure to 4-t-octylphenol is expected to be very low for most people. 
  • No actions are suggested to reduce exposure.

Biomonitoring California webpage on 4-t-Octylphenol.

Organochlorine Pesticides

Download:

OrganochlorinePesticidesFactSheet.pdf

Organochlorine pesticides were once widely used in agriculture and for home pest control.  Most organochlorine pesticides, including all those measured by Biomonitoring California, are no longer used in the U.S.  These pesticides have spread through the environment and take a long time to break down. 

Organochlorine pesticides are found in

  • Some high-fat dairy products, such as butter and high-fat cheeses like cream cheese and American cheese.
  • Some high-fat meats, such as some ground beef.
  • Some fatty fish, such as catfish, salmon, and canned sardines.*

*Fatty fish are an excellent source of healthy fats (like "omega-3" fatty acids).

Possible health concerns of organochlorine pesticides

  • May affect the developing fetus, possibly leading to later changes in learning and behavior.
  • May interfere with the body’s natural hormones.
  • May have effects on reproduction, such as decreased fertility.
  • May increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to organochlorine pesticides

Organochlorine pesticides have been decreasing in the environment and food because they are no longer used in the U.S.  You might further reduce your exposure by:

  • Including plenty of variety in your diet.
  • Trimming off skin from fish and fat from meat and cooking it on a rack to let fat drain off.
  • Washing your hands often, especially before eating or preparing food, cleaning your floors regularly, and dusting with a damp cloth.  This is because organochlorine pesticides may be in dust and soil from past use.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Organochlorine Pesticides.

Organophosphate Pesticides

Download:

OrganophosphatePesticidesFactSheet.pdf

Organophosphate pesticides are used in commercial agriculture to control pests on fruit and vegetable crops.  They are also used in home gardens, for flea control on pets, and in some no-pest strips.  In the past, organophosphates were widely used inside homes to control other pests like termites and ants, but these uses have been discontinued. 

Organophosphate pesticides are found in

  • Some flea and tick collars, shampoos, sprays, and powders for dogs and cats.
  • Some garden pest control products and no-pest strips.
  • Some fruits and vegetables.  Small amounts of organophosphate pesticides found in these foods come from agricultural pesticide use. 
  • Air and dust in areas where organophosphate pesticides are used, such as some farms or home gardens.
  • Some treatments for head lice.

Possible health concerns of some organophosphate pesticides

  • May affect the nervous system.
  • May harm the developing fetus, possibly affecting later learning and behavior.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to organophosphate pesticides

  • Use pesticide-free methods for pest prevention in your home and garden.  If you choose to use pesticides, consider baits and traps instead of sprays.  Always follow directions for use, storage, and disposal.
  • To help control fleas without pesticides, comb pets with a flea comb, regularly bathe pets with pesticide-free shampoo, and wash pet bedding.
  • If a pesticide is needed for flea control, consider safer spot-on treatments or oral medications for your pet.  Ask your veterinarian about the safest choices.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them.
  • Consider choosing organic or pesticide-free fruits and vegetables.
  • Because pesticides can be in dust, wash your hands often, especially before eating or preparing food, clean your floors regularly, and use a damp cloth to dust.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Organophosphate Pesticides.

Parabens

Download:

ParabensFactSheet.pdf

Parabens are widely used as preservatives in personal care products, such as cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, and conditioners.  Parabens are also used as preservatives in some over-the-counter and prescription medications.

Parabens are found in

  • Cosmetics and personal care products, including some:
    • Make-up, such as mascara, eye shadow, lipstick, and foundation.
    • Facial cleansers and scrubs.
    • Moisturizers, lotions, and sunscreens.
    • Shampoos, conditioners, and shaving creams.
  • Baby products, such as some lotions, baby wipes, and diaper rash ointments.
  • Some over-the-counter and prescription medications.
  • Some household products, such as some stain removers and pet shampoos.

Possible health concerns of parabens

Scientists are still studying how parabens might affect people’s health.  There is concern that some parabens:

  • May interfere with the body’s natural hormones.
  • May decrease fertility.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to parabens

  • Consider choosing cosmetics, personal care products, and baby products that use natural preservatives, such as vitamin C (might have words like “ascorbate” or “ascorbic” on the label).
  • Try natural oils for skin and hair, such as coconut oil, olive oil, and sunflower seed oil.
  • For infants, consider using plain washcloths instead of baby wipes, and wash their skin with ordinary soap and water.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Parabens.

Perchlorate

Download:

PerchlorateFactSheet.pdf

Perchlorate is an ingredient in rocket fuel and explosives.  It also occurs naturally in dry regions, such as in the Southwestern U.S.  Industrial uses of perchlorate have led to contamination of soil, groundwater, and drinking water in some areas of California.  Perchlorate lasts a long time in the environment and can accumulate in various crops.

Perchlorate is found in

  • Solid fuel for rockets and missiles.
  • Road flares, fireworks, explosives, and matches.
  • Some drinking water sources, near areas where perchlorate contamination has occurred.
  • Some fruits and vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, and cantaloupe.
  • Some milk and some powdered infant formula. 

Possible health concerns

Perchlorate can interfere with the thyroid gland’s ability to use iodide.  This can decrease production of thyroid hormone, which:
  • May affect brain development in the fetus and infant.
  • May affect a child’s ability to learn.
  • May increase risk factors for heart disease.

Possible ways to reduce exposure

  • If you live in an area where perchlorate contamination is a concern and your water comes from a private well, consider having it tested for perchlorate.  (If your water comes from a public water supplier, it is already tested regularly for perchlorate.)
  • Include plenty of variety in your and your children’s diets.

Importance of healthy levels of iodide

Maintaining a healthy level of iodide in the body is important.  A good way to get the right amount of iodide is through your diet, by eating foods like seafood, dairy products, and eggs.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Perchlorate.

Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs)

Download:

PFCsFactSheet.pdf

The group "perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs)" includes perfluorochemicals (PFCs). See the current list of designated chemicals for other example chemicals in the group PFASs.

PFCs are found in

  • Some foods, such as some red meat and packaged snacks like potato chips.  It is not yet known which foods might regularly contain PFCs.
  • Certain grease-repellent paper food containers, such as some microwave popcorn bags, take-out boxes, or fast-food wrappers.
  • Stain-resistant carpets and some carpet cleaning solutions.
  • Stain-, water-, and wrinkle-resistant fabrics and some stain- and water-repellent sprays.
  • Most non-stick cookware.

Possible health concerns of PFCs

Scientists are still studying how PFCs might affect people’s health.  There is concern that some PFCs:

  • May affect the developing fetus and child, including possible changes in growth, learning, and behavior.
  • May decrease fertility and interfere with the body's natural hormones.
  • May affect the immune system.
  • May increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to PFCs

Scientists are not sure how best to reduce exposure to PFCs. However, you can:

  • Limit how often you eat foods from grease-repellent paper containers.
  • Avoid buying stain-resistant carpets.
  • Avoid buying products labeled stain-resistant, water-resistant, or wrinkle-free, such as some fabrics, furniture, or clothes.
  • Avoid using sprays and carpet cleaning solutions that contain PFCs.
  • Because PFCs can come out of products and collect in dust, wash your hands often, especially before eating and preparing food, clean your floors regularly, and use a damp cloth to dust.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) .

Perfluorochemicals (PFCs)

Download:

PFCsFactSheet.pdf

Perfluorochemicals are used to make various products resistant to oil, stains, grease, and water.

PFCs are found in

  • Some foods, such as some red meat and packaged snacks like potato chips.  It is not yet known which foods might regularly contain PFCs.
  • Certain grease-repellent paper food containers, such as some microwave popcorn bags, take-out boxes, or fast-food wrappers.
  • Stain-resistant carpets and some carpet cleaning solutions.
  • Stain-, water-, and wrinkle-resistant fabrics and some stain- and water-repellent sprays.
  • Most non-stick cookware.

Possible health concerns of PFCs

Scientists are still studying how PFCs might affect people’s health.  There is concern that some PFCs:

  • May affect the developing fetus and child, including possible changes in growth, learning, and behavior.
  • May decrease fertility and interfere with the body's natural hormones.
  • May affect the immune system.
  • May increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to PFCs

Scientists are not sure how best to reduce exposure to PFCs. However, you can:

  • Limit how often you eat foods from grease-repellent paper containers.
  • Avoid buying stain-resistant carpets.
  • Avoid buying products labeled stain-resistant, water-resistant, or wrinkle-free, such as some fabrics, furniture, or clothes.
  • Avoid using sprays and carpet cleaning solutions that contain PFCs.
  • Because PFCs can come out of products and collect in dust, wash your hands often, especially before eating and preparing food, clean your floors regularly, and use a damp cloth to dust.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Perfluorochemicals (PFCs).

o-Phenylphenol

Download:

o-PhenylphenolFactSheet.pdf

o-Phenylphenol is used as a disinfectant by healthcare facilities, schools, and various businesses.  It may be added as a preservative to some products, such as paints and leather.  o-Phenylphenol is also used on some citrus fruit and pears to control fungus, although this use has declined considerably in recent years.

o-Phenylphenol is found in

  • Commercial disinfectants used in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, veterinary clinics, barber shops, agricultural operations, and other industries.
  • Other items, such as:
      • Some paints, adhesives, leather, and textiles, as a preservative.
      • Some beverage cans.
      • The surface of some citrus fruits and pears, in small amounts from agricultural fungicide application.
      • Some freshly cut wood treated for fungus.
      • A few household pest control products with added disinfectant.
      • A few personal care products, such as cleanser for sensitive skin.

Possible health concerns of o-phenylphenol

  • Might have an effect on the body’s natural hormones.
  • May increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to o-phenylphenol

The use of o-phenylphenol has been declining and exposures for most people are expected to be very low.  If you think you might be exposed to o-phenylphenol in the ways listed above, here are some actions you can take:

  • Wash your hands regularly, especially before eating or preparing food.
  • Wash all citrus fruit and pears before eating.
  • Clean your floors regularly and use a damp cloth to dust, because o-phenylphenol might be found in dust.

Biomonitoring California webpage on o-Phenylphenol.

Phthalates

Download:

FactSheet-Phthalates.pdf

Phthalates are added to vinyl to make soft and flexible plastic products, such as shower curtains.  Phthalates are also found in scented products, coatings like nail polish and paint, and a variety of other consumer goods.

Phthalates are found in

  • Products made from flexible vinyl plastics, sometimes called “PVC” or labeled with the recycling symbol “3”, including:
      • Shower curtains, flooring, and coverings on wires and cables.
      • School lunchboxes, binders, backpacks, modeling clay, and some soft plastic and inflatable toys.
      • Some plastic food packaging and some plastic containers.
      • Tubing and gloves used in food processing and medical care.
  • Fragrances in some candles, air fresheners, and personal care products like lotions, perfumes, hair products, and deodorants.
  • Some nail polish, paint, floor finishes, caulk, and adhesives.
  • Some medications and dietary supplements.

Possible health concerns of some phthalates

  • Can interfere with the body’s natural hormones.
  • Can affect development in the fetus, infants, and children.
  • Can decrease fertility.
  • May contribute to allergies and asthma.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to phthalates

  • Choose non-plastic alternatives when possible.  Otherwise, avoid flexible vinyl plastics, sometimes called “PVC” or labeled with a “3”.
  • Eat more fresh food and less processed and packaged food.
  • Choose products that do not list “fragrance” on the ingredient label.
  • Because phthalates come out of products and collect in dust, wash your hands often, especially before eating or preparing food, clean your floors regularly, and use a damp cloth to dust.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Phthalates.

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)

Download:

PBDEsFactSheet.pdf

PBDE flame retardants were commonly added to furniture, infant products, and electronics for many years.  They have spread through the environment and break down slowly.  U.S. production of some widely used PBDEs ended as of 2006, and the last major PBDE mixture is due to be phased out by the end of 2013.   The U.S. government is also working to prevent the addition of any PBDEs to new products, including imports, sold in the U.S.

PBDEs are found in

  • Polyurethane foam in furniture, pillows, motor vehicle seats, and baby products, like car seats and changing table pads, especially if manufactured before 2006.
  • Some hard plastic casings for electronics, such as TVs and computers; some mattresses, upholstery fabric, draperies, wires, and cables, especially if manufactured before 2013.
  • Some carpet padding made from recycled or scrap polyurethane foam.
  • Dust in homes, offices, and cars that contain products made with PBDEs.
  • Some high-fat foods, like sausages, high-fat cheeses, butter, and fatty fish. 

Possible health concerns of PBDEs

  • May interfere with the body’s natural hormones.
  • May harm the developing fetus and infant, possibly affecting later learning and behavior.
  • May decrease fertility.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to PBDEs

Reducing exposure to PBDEs is difficult because they have been extensively used in furniture and other products.  Actions that may help reduce exposure are listed below.

  • Because PBDEs come out of products and collect in dust:
      • Wash your hands often, especially before eating or preparing food.
      • Wash your children’s hands often.  Infants and toddlers get a lot of dust on their hands when they play or crawl on the floor.
      • Clean your floors regularly and use a damp cloth to dust.
  • Replace upholstered furniture that is torn or has crumbling foam.
  • Avoid using carpet padding made from recycled or scrap polyurethane foam.
  • Include plenty of variety in your diet.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs).

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Download:

PCBsFactSheet.pdf

PCBs were once widely used to insulate electrical equipment and as plasticizers.  PCBs were banned in the late 1970s but are still in some old equipment and products.  They have spread through the environment and take a long time to break down.

 Also see Hydroxy-PCBs.

PCBs are found in

  • Some fatty fish like salmon and canned sardines. (Fatty fish are still good to eat. These fish are an excellent source of healthy fats [like "omega-3" fatty acids] and protein.)
  • Some high-fat animal products like hamburger meat and ice cream.
  • Some products and building materials produced before 1980, such as:
    • Caulk in older buildings, including schools.
    • Some old fluorescent light fixtures.
    • Some paint, wood floor finishes, plastics, and foam or fiberglass insulation.

Possible health concerns of PCBs

  • Can harm the developing fetus and infant, possibly affecting growth and learning.
  • Can interfere with the body’s natural hormones and affect the immune system.
  • May decrease fertility.
  • May increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to PCBs

PCBs have been decreasing in the environment and food because they are no longer manufactured.  You might further reduce your exposure by:

  • Including plenty of variety in your diet.
  • Trimming off skin from fish and fat from meat and cooking it on a rack to let fat drain off.
  • Washing your hands often, especially before eating or preparing food, cleaning your floors regularly, and dusting with a damp cloth.  This is because PCBs may be in dust and soil.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs).

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Download:

PAHsFactSheet.pdf

PAHs occur naturally in petroleum products, such as gasoline and diesel, and are formed when these products are burned.  PAHs are found in tobacco and wood smoke.  They also form when foods are grilled, barbecued, or roasted.

Hydroxy-polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (hydroxy-PAHs) are measured as indicators of exposure to the various PAHs. 

PAHs are found in

  • Exhaust from cars, trucks, and buses, as well as road dust.
  • Cigarette smoke, smoke from cigars and pipes, and chewing tobacco.
  • Smoke from grilling, fireplaces, wood stoves, campfires, and forest fires.
  • Foods that are grilled, barbecued, smoked, fried, or roasted.
  • Liquid smoke seasonings and flavorings.

Possible health concerns of some PAHs

  • May contribute to asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems.
  • May affect the developing fetus, including effects on growth.
  • May reduce fertility and interfere with the body’s natural hormones.
  • May increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to PAHs

  • Limit consumption of grilled, barbecued, smoked, fried, and roasted foods.  Avoid burning food.  Try steaming, boiling, stewing, or poaching your food more often.
  • Take steps to reduce exposure to common sources of air pollution:
      • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke in your home or car.  Avoid breathing cigarette or other tobacco smoke.
      • Use exhaust fans or open your windows when cooking indoors.
      • Do not idle cars inside garages, especially garages attached to your home.
      • Avoid burning wood, especially for home heating.
  • Because PAHs can be in dust, wash your hands often, especially before eating or preparing food, clean your floors regularly, and use a damp cloth to dust.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Pyrethroid Pesticides

Download:

PyrethroidPesticidesFactSheet.pdf

Pyrethroid pesticides are common ingredients in pest control products for the home and garden.  They are also used to control insects on commercial agricultural crops and livestock. 

Pyrethroid pesticides are found in

  • Home and garden pest control products such as roach, ant, fly, and mosquito sprays, traps, and repellents; and termite and flea foggers and bombs.
  • Some tick and flea control products, such as collars and spot-on treatments.
  • Commercial pesticide products used on crops and livestock and for pest control in buildings and landscape maintenance.  Small amounts of pyrethroid pesticides used in agriculture may be found in some foods.
  • Air and dust in areas where pyrethroid pesticides are used, such as homes, gardens, and some farms.
  • Some treatments for head lice. 

Possible health concerns of some pyrethroid pesticides

  • May affect the developing fetus and child, possibly leading to changes in behavior.
  • May interfere with the body’s natural hormones and may decrease fertility.
  • Might increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to pyrethroid pesticides

  • Use pesticide-free methods for pest prevention.  If you choose to use pesticides, consider baits and traps instead of sprays.  Always follow directions for use, storage, and disposal. 
  • To help control fleas without pesticides, comb pets with a flea comb, regularly bathe pets with pesticide-free shampoo, and wash pet bedding.
  • If a pesticide is needed for flea control, consider safer spot-on treatments or oral medications for your pet.  Ask your veterinarian about the safest choices. 
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them.
  • Because pesticides can be in dust, wash your hands often, especially before eating or preparing food, clean your floors regularly, and use a damp cloth to dust.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Pyrethroid Pesticides.

Thallium

Download:

ThalliumFactSheet.pdf

Thallium is a metal that occurs in nature.  It is used in various specialized applications in electronics, medicine, and research.  Historically, it was used as a rat poison, but this use was banned in 1972 because thallium is very toxic to humans.  Thallium is released into the environment at very low levels from raw materials used by some industries, such as oil and gas operations, cement plants, and steel manufacturers.

Thallium is found in:

  • Components used in electronics, such as semiconductors.
  • Some drinking water sources, such as well water that has been affected by industrial or wastewater discharges.
  • Air and dust near certain industrial facilities that can release thallium, such as cement plants and steel manufacturers.
  • Cigarette and other tobacco smoke, at very low levels.

Possible health concerns of thallium

Thallium is highly toxic and can harm many vital processes in the body.  Thallium:

  • Can harm the nervous system.
  • Can impair vision.
  • Can cause hair loss.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to thallium

  • If your water comes from a private well, have it tested for metals, including thallium.  (If your water comes from a public water supplier, it is already tested regularly for thallium.)
  • If you work with materials that contain thallium or at facilities where thallium may be released into the air, follow all occupational safety guidelines for your industry. 

Biomonitoring California webpage on Thallium.

2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T)

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2,4,5‐T was used in the past to control weeds in forests, parks, pastures, lawns, and along roadsides and railroad tracks. Because of toxicity concerns, most uses were ended in the U.S. in the 1970s. All uses of 2,4,5‐T in the U.S. ended by 1985. Biomonitoring California tests for 2,4,5‐T only because it is included in a laboratory method that measures a group of similar chemicals. We do not expect to find 2,4,5‐T in people’s urine.

2,4,5-T was found in

Weed control products used in the past in forests, parks, pastures, lawns and along roadsides and railroad tracks. All uses of 2,4,5‐T in the U.S. ended by 1985.

Possible health concerns of 2,4,5-T

Weed control products that contained 2,4,5‐T were contaminated with dioxin, a toxic chemical known to cause cancer and harm the developing fetus. Use of these weed
control products ended because of toxicity concerns, but it is not known whether 2,4,5‐T itself posed health concerns or if toxicity was due to dioxin alone.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to 2,4,5-T

No actions are suggested because 2,4,5‐T is no longer used and does not last a long time in the environment.

Biomonitoring California webpage on 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T).

Triclosan

Download:

TriclosanFactSheet.pdf

Triclosan is used to kill bacteria.  It is added to soaps and other consumer products labeled as “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial.”

Triclosan is found in

  • Many liquid hand soaps described as “antibacterial” on the label.
  • Some toothpastes, deodorants, cosmetics, facial cleansers, body washes, and mouthwashes.
  • Many consumer products, such as some cutting boards, toys, clothes, towels, paint, and garden hoses.

Possible health concerns of triclosan

Scientists are still studying how triclosan may affect people’s health.  There is concern that triclosan:

  • May interfere with the body’s natural hormones.
  • May make it harder for antibiotic medicines to fight infections in the body.  This is because overuse of triclosan may cause changes in bacteria that make them harder to kill.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to triclosan

  • Choose ordinary soap instead of soap described as “antibacterial” on the label.  Antibacterial soap with triclosan provides no known extra health benefits over ordinary soap.
  • Avoid products that contain triclosan, unless you have a medical reason for using them.  For example, toothpaste with triclosan may help prevent gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).

Biomonitoring California webpage on Triclosan.

Tungsten

Download:

TungstenFactSheet.pdf

Tungsten is a metal that occurs in nature. Tungsten compounds and alloys are used in many industries due to their hardness and strength. Tungsten compounds are also used as pigments and flame retardants.

Tungsten is found in:

  • Metal components used in a wide variety of products and applications, including:
    • Hard metal tools for construction, metalworking, and drilling.
    • Welding supplies and equipment.
    • Electronics.
    • Ammunition.
    • Sports and hobby equipment, such as fishing weights, darts, golf clubs, and exercise weights.
    • Jewelry, such as wedding bands.
  • Some pigments for ceramic glazes and paints.
  • Some flame retardants for fabrics.

Possible health concerns of tungsten

Hard metal dusts that contain tungsten combined with other known toxic metals like cobalt pose health hazards.  The possible health concerns of exposure to tungsten and tungsten compounds on their own are not well understood.  A US government agency[1] is studying the toxicity of a tungsten compound in laboratory animals, including its potential to affect the immune system or contribute to cancer risk.

 

Possible ways to reduce exposure to tungsten

  • If you work with tungsten or do any welding or metalworking, be sure your work area is well ventilated and use proper protective equipment.  Follow other safe work practices, including washing hands frequently, keeping work dust out of your home, and washing work clothes separately.
 


[1] The National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Biomonitoring California webpage on Tungsten.

Uranium

Download:

UraniumFactSheet.pdf

Natural uranium is a weakly radioactive metal that occurs in many types of rock.  Natural uranium can be found at low levels in some drinking water sources and foods.  Enriched uranium is derived from natural uranium and is much more radioactive.  Enriched uranium is used as fuel in nuclear power plants and in nuclear weapons.  Depleted uranium, a byproduct of uranium processing, is used in military and medical applications.  Depleted uranium can have toxic effects similar to natural uranium, but is less radioactive.

Uranium is found in:

  • Drinking water sources in some places, such as parts of the Central Valley and some areas of Southern California.
  • Some foods, such as root vegetables and leafy greens, grown in areas containing uranium in soil or water.
  • Radiation-shielding equipment containing depleted uranium, used in medical and other applications.
  • Specialized ammunition and other military equipment made with depleted uranium.

Possible health concerns of uranium

Uranium:

  • Can cause kidney damage.
  • Can increase cancer risk.

Possible ways to reduce exposure to uranium

  • If your water comes from a private well, have it tested for metals, including uranium.  (If your water comes from a public water supplier, it is already tested regularly for uranium.)
  • If you work with uranium, follow all occupational safety guidelines for your industry.

Biomonitoring California webpage on Uranium.

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