Health Effects Of Home Pollutants Underestimated By Most Women

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

According to new research, most women underestimate the health effects of home pollutants. News about the health effects of chemicals, such as BPA in baby bottles has increased awareness, but women still put their health at risk from the unknown effects of consumer products used on a daily basis.

According to research published in the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, co-authored by sociologist Phil Brown, exposure to pollutants in the home accumulates over-time, posing genuine health risks for women. The goal of the research is awareness. The researchers sought to measure the women's response to how pollutants affect their bodies. It is the first study to evaluate women's reactions to home pollutants that can accumulate in the body. The sociologists found that most women were surprised to learn that electronics, household dust, food packaging and cosmetics add up to affect personal health. Most of the women believed that pollutants from the outside environment have a greater impact on health.


Twenty-five women participated in the Silent Spring Institute's Household Exposure Study (HES) in Cape Cod. All of the women took an active role in learning the results of tests that looked at 89 environmental toxins in the home. The women responded positively, with a desire to learn more about the risks. "While there has been a rapid rise in bio-monitoring and household exposure assessment, we're lacking social science data on how people respond to research that involves their homes and bodies. Our findings are among the first to examine the full 'exposure experience, '" says Brown.

The sociologists have found a new role in the scientific community. Rebecca Gasior Altman, who led the study, says, "People more readily equate pollution with large-scale contamination and environmental disasters, yet the products and activities that form the backdrop to our everyday lives — electronics, cleaners, beauty products, food packaging — are a significant source of daily personal chemical exposure that accumulates over time."
Women have a right to know how products used on a daily basis impact health. Through their work, the sociologists bring valuable insight that can help us make choices leading to a healthier home environment. Most of us have developed much awareness about the effects of environmental pollutants. We may not be as knowledgeable about how toxic household products and cosmetics cause harm.
Women can't scientifically monitor the individual health effects of household pollutants, but the research should still provide valuable insight. We can take better control of our health by choosing a less toxic home environment.