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Toxic contaminants consumers bring home from work could be a public health hazard

Experts are questioning the current regulations set up to protect workers

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A new study conducted by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine found that consumers could be bringing toxic contaminants from work into their homes. 

The researchers say this trend is certainly a cause for concern, as the exposure to such chemicals could become a public health hazard. 

“Although OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] does regulate some key workplace exposures that can become take-home exposures, such as asbestos, lead, and pesticides, often regulations are not up to date or enforced enough to be protective at the family level,” said researcher Dr. Diana Ceballos. 

Affecting the household

Dr. Ceballos drew on her previous work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as several other studies that have evaluated the impacts of take-home exposures, to better understand how these chemicals can affect more than just the workers themselves. 

The researchers explain that regulations are put in place that are designed to protect workers, and ultimately the people they come into contact with after work hours. However, they found various cases in which these strategies didn’t hold up. The researchers found that systemic inequalities often make it difficult for workers to avoid potentially dangerous working conditions, as those who work in direct contact with contaminants can’t afford to lose their jobs by speaking up. 

This issue becomes compounded when workers live in buildings that are also contaminated with similar chemicals, as those who live there are getting double the exposure. Children are particularly vulnerable to such contaminants, as it takes lower levels of exposure for them to experience the side effects that come with these chemicals. 

Tighter regulations needed

While the researchers are calling for tighter regulations for all workers, they also explained that work needs to be done on all fronts, including improving housing units to ensure that workers aren’t putting themselves or their loved ones at risk. 

“To prevent the chronic, low-level, take-home exposures that are particularly harmful for developing children, a multi-tier intervention approach including interventions at the workplace, home, and community levels are needed,” said Dr. Ceballos. 

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