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Poor Hispanics, Blacks Highly Exposed to Household Chemicals

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Low-income Mexican Americans and blacks are highly exposed to a potentially carcinogenic chemical found in household products, while those with higher incomes are less exposed, according to a new study.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed two remnants of chemicals, used in cheap toilet deodorizers, moth repellants and a weed killer, in the urine of more than 10,400 Americans.

"We speculate that as household income increases living in single houses rather than in multiple dwellings may have contributed to the downward trend of DCPs [dichlorophenols] for non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican Americans," wrote the authors in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

One chemical, 2,5-DCP, is a breakdown product of 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, found in some air fresheners, toilet and urinal disinfectant blocks and mothballs. It has been classified as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." The other chemical, 2,4-DCP, is used to manufacture 2,4-D, an herbicide linked to hormone disruption, reproductive problems and lymphomas in humans and household pets.

DCPs were measured in at least 81 percent of the people tested. While levels of both chemicals declined between 2003 and 2010, they remained higher in Mexican Americans, blacks and people of all races living in multiunit housing.

Mexican Americans, and blacks were two to six times more likely than whites to have the highest concentrations of the toilet block/air freshener chemical, while they were up to 4.7 times more likely to have the highest levels of the insecticide chemical.

Levels decreased in Mexican Americans and blacks as incomes rose. Mexican Americans with the highest incomes had urine levels of the toilet block/air freshener chemical that were 70 percent lower than Mexican Americans living in poverty.  


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