A REVIEW OF THE POTENTIAL CONCERNS REGARDING IN UTERO EXPOSURE TO VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS (BTEX) IN HOUSEHOLD PAINTS
Geen, Chelsea Elizabeth
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Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are found ubiquitously throughout the environment. Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, a combination also known as BTEX, are common VOCs found indoors. In particular, these compounds can be found in household consumer products such as paints and related organic solvents. Exposure to these compounds has been associated with adverse health effects. Of the BTEX compounds, benzene has been identified as a human carcinogen. Maternal inhalation of benzene may result in fetal exposure through transplacental migration from mother to fetus. To date, the specific mechanism of benzene toxicity remains unknown, but there is enough evidence to conclude that benzene exerts its toxic effects through reactive metabolites. Since pregnant mothers spend much of their time in the household environment, there is the possibility for in utero benzene exposure from indoor paints and paint solvents. Here, a review of VOC and BTEX properties is given, as well as current regulations and components of paints. This information is followed by a risk assessment for in utero exposure to paint fumes containing benzene as a model BTEX compound, using available data regarding human exposure and potential hazards to the fetus. Hazardous exposure of the fetus to paint fumes may occur at the earliest stages of gestation; however, as data used for risk quantification was limited, further research is needed to confirm this conclusion.