RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that thousands of common household items, including many cleaners, candles, paints, glues, printer ink, pesticides, and vinyl flooring, are releasing volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, into your indoor air, posing a number of health problems. And a new study looking at the effects on the elderly suggests these irritating chemicals are actually decreasing their ability to breathe, worsening living conditions for those with heart disease or lung ailments.
THE DETAILS: The small study looked at 154 people 60 years old or older who lived at home but spent their days at senior centers. The participants performed up to eight spirometric tests, designed to measure the amount and force with which people exhale and inhale. The tests are commonly used in evaluating asthma and other lung diseases.
Researchers also used urine samples to detect levels of VOC breakdown substances—chemicals indicating the presence of VOCs in the body—and tested for oxidative stress markers that indicate cellular damage. They found that when metabolites of the VOCs toluene and xylene were present, there were significant decreases in lung functioning and increases in oxidative stress, which can damage cells, tissues, and organs. The authors conclude that toluene and xylene create a harmful effect on lung function by worsening oxidative stress in elderly people.