Most people have never heard of dichlorophenols (DCPs) despite the fact that they are chemicals known to disrupt our hormone systems and commonly found in a variety of consumer and industry products, such as deodorizers, antibacterial additives, and even chlorinated drinking water. Some laboratory animal studies have suggested that these compounds could potentially cause cancer and adverse metabolic effects. A new School of Public Health study recently investigated two types of DCPs and found that they are indeed linked with many serious diseases.
“The compounds 2,4 and 2,5-DCP are ubiquitous and many people are exposed to them in the U.S.,” says lead author and PhD student Mary Rooney. “Now, our study has found that 2,5-DCP is associated with a higher prevalence of heart disease and cancer.”
Rooney found the link between DCPs and the diseases by analyzing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The survey of 3,617 participants included information on their self-reported history of illness as well as urine tests that estimate their exposure to DCPs.
The study found:
- Higher urinary 2,5-DCP concentrations were associated with greater prevalence of heart disease and greater prevalence of all cancers combined.
- Participants with higher concentrations of 2,5-DCP and 2,4-DCP tended to be obese, have a lower income-to-poverty ratio and were less likely to be non-Hispanic white.
- No statistically significant associations were found between 2,5-DCP and lung diseases (asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema), thyroid problems or liver conditions.
Previous NHANES research showed that 81 percent of people tested positive for the presence of 2,4-DCP and 2,5-DCP in urine tests.
“Given that 81 percent of Americans show evidence of exposure to these chemicals, we need to understand more about how they may influence health,” says Rooney.
This study only suggests a possible link between DCP exposure and heart disease or cancer. Rooney recommends that environmental health researchers continue investigation of the effects of DCP exposure to determine if and how it actually causes such diseases in people. She says the findings will hopefully increase awareness of DCPs and other chemicals that may potentially make people sick.