Rutgers study questions yellow dye safety

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - February 23, 2014

The latest to come under fire is a bright yellow coloring.

Rutgers University researchers say they've found traces of polychlorinated biphenyls - chemicals banned in the 1970s - leaching out of clothing and printed materials from around the world.

The Rutgers team, led by Lisa Rodenburg, an associate professor of environmental chemistry, tested paper products sold in 26 countries, as well as clothing sold in the United States, and found traces of PCB-11 in nearly all of them.

Because the compound is an unintended by-product of pigment manufacturing, the PCB-11 found in consumer products is exempt from laws regarding PCBs.

Little is known about the health effects of PCB-11.

PCBs in general are known to cause cancer, irritate the lungs, and cause birth defects.

Rodenburg's team found PCB-11 in all 16 pieces of U.S. clothing. Most of them were made overseas.

In addition, it was found in all of the ink-treated paper products, including maps, ads, brochures, and napkins.

Even though the old PCBs were banned, they are still in the environment.

And the Rutgers team says it is concerned by how commonly PCB-11 is found; it showed up in blood samples of 60% of the women tested in a 2010 University of Iowa study.

It also shows up in U.S. waterways, including the Delaware River and the New York-New Jersey harbor. In the Delaware, the level of PCB-11 was almost double the federal limit for all PCBs.

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