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PLoS One. 2017 May 17;12(5):e0177363. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0177363. eCollection 2017.

Experimental outgassing of toxic chemicals to simulate the characteristics of hazards tainting globally shipped products.

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Occupational Toxicology and Immunology Unit, Institute for Occupational and Maritime Medicine (ZfAM), University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.
Department of Chemical and Product Safety, German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Berlin, Germany.


Ambient monitoring analyses may identify potential new public health hazards such as residual levels of fumigants and industrial chemicals off gassing from products and goods shipped globally. We analyzed container air with gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (TD-2D-GC-MS/FPD) and assessed whether the concentration of the volatiles benzene and 1,2-dichloroethane exceeded recommended exposure limits (REL). Products were taken from transport containers and analyzed for outgassing of volatiles. Furthermore, experimental outgassing was performed on packaging materials and textiles, to simulate the hazards tainting from globally shipped goods. The mean amounts of benzene in analyzed container air were 698-fold higher, and those of ethylene dichloride were 4.5-fold higher than the corresponding REL. More than 90% of all containers struck with toluene residues higher than its REL. For 1,2-dichloroethane 53% of containers, transporting shoes exceeded the REL. In standardized experimental fumigation of various products, outgassing of 1,2-dichloroethane under controlled laboratory conditions took up to several months. Globally produced transported products tainted with toxic industrial chemicals may contribute to the mixture of volatiles in indoor air as they are likely to emit for a long period. These results need to be taken into account for further evaluation of safety standards applying to workers and consumers.

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