Glossary

Type a term:

Industrial Chemicals: Practical Suggestions

General Strategy

Organic solvents, industrial chemicals, and byproducts of industrial processes have been shown to cause loads of health problems. Exposure to some of the chemicals has also been associated with increased breast cancer risk. Like so many other environmental chemicals, these substances probably exert some of their carcinogenic effects by interfering with cellular processes in breast tissue that are normally regulated by the hormone estradiol.

Watch out for these risk factors:

  • Organochlorines: are chemicals produced for various consumer purposes. Both organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are examples of these chemicals. PCBs are good electrical insulating material and have been widely used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment. They were also used in paints and calks, and therefore may be found in the indoor environment. Because of previous widespread use, PCBs are also found in food, surface soils, drinking and groundwater, indoor air and in some industrial settings. Despite being almost four decades ago, PCBs remain persistent in our environment and in our bodies.
  • Industrial byproducts: are chemicals produced unintentionally through industrial processes. Dioxins, a group of hundreds of chemicals, are the unintentional byproduct of burning coal and oil and ar also formed when chlorine-containing elements, like plastic or industrial waste, are burned. Dioxin is also formed during chemical and pesticide manufacturing and pulp and paper bleaching. These chemicals are now found everywhere in the world in water, air, soul, and sediment, as well as in our bodies. They are a contaminant in food.
  • Organic solvents: such as benzene, toluene, trichloroethylene, and tetrachloroethylene are used in a variety of industrial processes. Solvents are used in the manufacturing of computer components, cosmetics manufacturing, the semiconductor industry, the fabrication of metal, and in the lumber, furniture, printing, chemical, textile, and clothing industries. Tetrachlochloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene (PCE or PERC), is an organic solvent used in the dry cleaning process, and may be present on recently dry-cleaned clothes.