A study was released earlier this year that has shocked the building industry and caused concern around the world–modern wood sealants used on kitchen cabinets have been linked to PCB contamination inside homes. In other words, if you have recently remodeled your kitchen cabinets, they could be toxic to your family with a substance that has been banned since 1979. So what do you do? Well, we have some answers and direction on which types of cabinets are safer. You’ve trusted Mamavation to cover corruption in the cosmetic industry, what air quality is like in your city, & whether your favorite store has BPA inside their receipts, now join us as we explore the toxicity issues behind modern kitchen cabinets and how you can protect your family.
Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) contamination in kitchen cabinets is very concerning. PCBs were widely used in the creation of lubricants, inks, paints and electrical equipment from 1920 to 1979. They were then classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) at the World Health Organization and then banned in 1979. Not only are PCBs very persistent, meaning they stick around in the environment for YEARS, but they are also problematic to health. PCBs have a half-life of about 10-15 years and tend to get stored in body fat, which makes them very difficult to detox. They are linked to cancers, thyroid conditions, diabetes, lesions, irregular menstrual cycles, lowered immunity responses, fatigue, headaches, coughs, poor cognitive development in children & motor control problems.
The Monsanto company was the sole distributor of PCBs from 1920 to 1977, which is one of the many reasons they were nicknamed “the most evil corporation in the world.” In 2003, Monsanto was sued for illegally dumping PCBs in the town of Anniston, Alabama, and lost over $700 million to the community in a lawsuit settlement. According to internal documents, Monsanto knew about the contamination and health impacts and continued to manufacture and dump PCBs into the environment in Anniston, Alabama. Because of this egregious act, thousands of people were harmed with disease ranging from cancers, birth defects, cognitive disorders, early death, diabetes and thyroid conditions. Today similar lawsuits are happening, but this time the cities of Seattle, Spokane, Portland, Berkeley, San Diego, San Jose and Oakland are suing Monsanto to help clean up their waterways. Therefore Monsanto, the same company that created Agent Orange in Vietnam and genetically modified crops with glyphosate today are still operating in the same matter–throw the chemical into the environment first and ask questions later.
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Modern Kitchen Cabinets May Have PCB Contamination
Earlier this year in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology, scientists published a study detecting PCBs off-gassing from modern kitchen cabinets from wood sealant breakdown. Keri C. Hornbuckle and colleagues at the University of Iowa College of Engineering wanted to determine how much PCB contamination was happening in homes and where it was happening. The researchers measured concentrations of PCBs using special equipment, polyurethane-equipped passive air samples (PUF-PAS) for six weeks from August 22, 2017 to October 2, 2017. They surveyed 16 homes in Iowa and found neurotoxic PCB-47, PCB-51 and PCB-68 at levels that were concerning and unexpected.
Homes with modern kitchens that were modeled within the last five years had the highest concentrations of the contaminants. Originally, they were testing emissions from everything in the kitchen like the stove, floor, walls, and then the kitchen cabinets. That’s when they discovered the PCB contamination was actually off-gassing from the cabinets. They then suspected the contamination originated from the decomposition of 2,4-dichlorobenzoyl peroxide, which is a common ingredient in modern cabinet wood sealants.
How The Cabinet Manufacturers Association Responded
Betsy Natz, CEO of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association had this to say. “Let me say at the outset that I am not a scientist. But I do know that scientific studies can be complex and you would need to talk to the principal author(s) and perhaps other scientists that have studied PCBs to evaluate the study. However, I do know that there is a great deal of research in the open literature on PCBs. It is interesting why this source wasn’t identified years ago?”
She added, “Having said that the way a protocol is constructed for any scientific study is critical to the outcome and needs to be considered carefully, optimally by not only the study researchers but perhaps others in the scientific community. And, the results of any study should be able to be replicated in follow-up studies. It seems to me that this is a very small sample size. If you compare it to the study that Exponent conducted, they collected more than 30,000 passive badge samples from more than 19,000 residential homes for formaldehyde levels in installed Chinese manufactured laminate flooring. Sixteen passive samples may not be a robust enough sample size.
“I am not sure what the permissible exposure levels mandated by various federal agencies. notably EPA, nor PCB’s health effects. And, if there is a consensus on any potential adverse health effects? How do these levels compare to levels of PCBs found in ambient air? The authors also hypothesized that the congeners are inadvertent byproducts of the polymer seal manufacturing operations process. Perhaps more research is needed.”
We agree that more research is needed at this point. So although we can’t say that ALL kitchen cabinets are contaminated with PCBs, the oppositive is also true…we can’t say all the newer cabinets are safe either. In this case, I would say that precaution is warranted because PCBs are so dangerous.
Ways To Avoid Off-Gassing Toxins When Remodeling or Selecting New Kitchen Cabinets
This study came out days before I started my kitchen remodel so I had some time to dig into the issue and find alternatives. I ended up deciding to refurbish my old kitchen cabinets because it was less expensive and I didn’t want to chance it with newer cabinets. However, what I did discover was purchasing “green guard” cabinets is your best bet to ensure these wood sealants are not used. You can search for different types of green guard cabinets here. Greenguard is also free from formaldehyde and an additional 10,000 chemicals to ensure they are healthy and safe for the family especially considering indoor air quality.
If you decide to refinish your old kitchen cabinets like I did, there are several things you can do to ensure you protect the indoor air quality of your home.
- Ask the workers to take the doors off the cabinets and sand and treat them away from your home. Make sure to seal off the area so the dust does not leak into your living areas.
- Pick up a robust air purifier and have it on full blast the entire time work is done. My favorite air purifier is the Intellipure because it’s the absolute best one on the market able to handle the toughest jobs that present themselves in your home. More about that model here and a 10% discount for the Mamavation community. If you can’t afford an Intellipure, pick a HEPA air filter instead. Use “Mamavation” at checkout!
- Only allow “low VOC” or “no VOC” primer to be used on the kitchen cabinets. You may also need to pick up a “low VOC shellac primer” as well. Today there are several selections but GreenGuard.org has a list here.
- Use “low VOC” paint on the cabinets if you end up painting them. Here is a full list here.
- Use “low VOC” wood sealants if you end up refurbishing them instead. Here’s a list of wood stains and finishes from Greenguard.org.
How to Clean Up Indoor Air If You Suspect Contamination
Indoor air quality is estimated to be anywhere from 2-5x more polluted than the air outside. That’s because contaminants get trapped inside our homes, especially when they are super energy efficient. Outside, the wind and sun beat down the contaminants and break them down, but inside they have nowhere to go. Click below for our FREE eBook “The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Up Indoor Air in Your Home” for tips and tricks.
Open Your Windows Every Day
Opening your windows every day gives bad air the ability to circulate out of your home.
Bring in More Houseplants
NASA has given us lots of information on what plants have the ability to filter out contaminants in the air.
Get an Intellipure Ultrafine 468 to Clean Up the Air
The strongest air purifier on the market is the Intellipure Ultrafine 468. This is hands-down my favorite air purifier because I used it during my own kitchen remodel. Click here to receive 10% off a machine for your home and use “Mamavation” at checkout.
Make Sure to Dust Often
I hate cleaning, but when it comes to indoor air, dusting often helps you cut down on the amount of fire retardants your family is exposed to. Fire retardants coming from furniture, carpet, electronics & rugs degrade over time and become attracted to household dust. Therefore, dusting and having less junk in your house will cut down on the amount of fire retardants you are exposed to.
Purchase Furniture, Flooring, Carpet & Other Products With Low to No VOCs
Old electronics, furniture, flooring & carpet typically contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) unless you make an effort to avoid them. VOCs can interact with the ozone inside your home and create smog when exposed to sunlight. Therefore, it’s in your best interests to find products for your home that have low or no VOCs. For instance, formaldehyde is an example of a VOC and it’s very common to find particleboard furniture. Shopping at places like Ikea is a safer option for furniture with low VOCs. Here’s a list of safe places to find furniture. When you look into flooring, it’s important to know what they are using to seal the wood with and opt for more eco-friendly alternatives like Cali Bamboo.
Switch to Natural Cleaning Products or Make Your Own
When it comes to cleaning your home, anything that comes with a warning label on the back should be tossed. (You don’t need that type of negativity in your life *snort*) But really those warnings are there because the product has the ability to pollute the air in your home, so avoiding them is really your best bet. Lots of cleaning products also contain VOCs and remember what happens when VOCs react with ozone inside your home and sunlight…smog. Yikes! If you would like some recipes on how to make your own cleaning products, pick up a copy of Green Enough: Eat Better, Live Cleaner, Be Happier (All Without Driving Yoru Family Crazy!).
How to Detox From PCBs Based On Studies
Detoxing from PCBs doesn’t have as many studies as other contaminants backing detoxing but there are a couple of methods I’ve found. The first way to detox from PCB contamination is with an infrared sauna. Sauna use has been around for hundreds of years as a means of wellness. But infrared saunas more powerful and very safe for the entire family. You also want to make sure you select an infrared sauna that doesn’t have treated wood or you are basically putting toxins back inside. I’d also look for a unit that has low EMF. Clearlight Infrared Saunas are what we have in my house and they generously offered $400-600 off a unit, lifetime warranty and a backrest to anyone from the Mamavation community. For more information click here.
And finally here’s one other study about PCBs detoxing but I’m not recommending it. I’m telling you about it but would not recommend going this route without talking to a doctor first and knowing you have a heavy burden of PCBs in your body. Olestra has been found to have the ability to detox PCBs & DDE from your body. It was a small study but the results were very significant because the contamination was great. “The researchers say that olestra apparently makes fat-soluble compounds like PCBs in the intestine more likely to be dissolved, which reduces absorption of these compounds into the body” which I believe because of how rough Olestra is with your body. Again, I don’t recommend going this route but just letting you know about it. Utilizing an infrared sauna would be much safer way of detoxing PCBs from the body.
Want More Tips on How to Detox Your Home From Hormone Disrupting Chemicals?
Pick up a copy of Green Enough: Eat Better, Live Cleaner, Be Happier (All Without Driving Your Family Crazy!) if you are serious about making your home safer for your family. Inside you’ll get step-by-step instructions on how to do a kitchen cabinet purge, personal care purge, indoor air quality purge, and food packaging purge. It also contains over 1,000 product recommendations to make things easy for you and very simple when you have to start purchasing new products.
And don’t forget to pick up our FREE eBook “The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Up Indoor Air In Your Home” by signing up below.