BTEX and Endocrine Disruption

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A new study has revealed the possible association between BTEX compounds (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes) and endocrine disruption at levels way below the reference concentrations used by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

BTEX chemicals are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are used as solvents in consumer and industrial products, as gasoline additives, and as intermediates in the synthesis of organic compounds for many consumer products. As a result, they are prevalent in our environment, especially in indoor settings. The current scientific understanding of these chemicals is that they can cause skin and sensory irritation, central nervous system problems and effects on the respiratory system at acute short-term exposures; and kidney, liver and circulatory problems as well as leukemia and other forms of cancer at chronic long-term exposures.

However, this new study points to the role of BTEX chemicals in hormone disruptions, a field of study pioneered by the late Theo Colborn. In fact, Theo contributed personally to this study before her passing along with scientist from the The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) (the international non-profit she founded) and the University of Colorado, Boulder. Although direct association can be made between endocrine disruption and BTEX exposure, this study points to the real need to examine this link more closely. Cathy Milbourn, a spokesperson for the EPA, said in an emailed response that the agency will “review the study and incorporate the findings into our work as appropriate.”

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