Socioeconomic disparities in indoor air, breath, and blood perchloroethylene level among adult and child residents of buildings with or without a dry cleaner

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Abstract

In many cities, dry cleaners using perchloroethylene are frequently located in multifamily residential buildings and often cause elevated indoor air levels of perchloroethylene throughout the building. To assess individual perchloroethylene exposures associated with co-located dry cleaners, we measured perchloroethylene in residential indoor air, and in blood and breath of adults and children residing in buildings with a dry cleaner as part of the New York City (NYC) Perc Project. We also measured perchloroethylene in indoor air, and in blood and breath of residents of buildings without a dry cleaner for comparison. Here, we evaluate whether an environmental disparity in perchloroethylene exposures is present. Study participants are stratified by residential building type (dry cleaner or reference) and socioeconomic characteristics (race/ethnicity and income); measures of perchloroethylene exposure are examined; and, the influence of stratified variables and other factors on perchloroethylene exposure is assessed using multivariate regression. All measures of perchloroethylene exposure for residents of buildings with a dry cleaner indicated a socioeconomic disparity. Mean indoor air perchloroethylene levels were about five times higher in minority (82.5 ug/m3) than in non-minority (16.5 ug/m3) households, and about six times higher in low-income (105.5 ug/m3) than in high income (17.8 ug/m3) households. Mean blood perchloroethylene levels in minority children (0.27 ng/mL) and adults (0.46 ng/mL) were about two and three times higher than in non-minority children (0.12 ng/mL) and adults (0.15 ng/mL), respectively. Mean blood perchloroethylene levels in low income children (0.34 ng/mL) and adults (0.62 ng/mL) were about three and four times higher than in high income children (0.11 ng/mL) and adults (0.14 ng/mL), respectively. A less marked socioeconomic disparity was observed in perchloroethylene breath levels with minority and low income residents having slightly higher levels than non-minority and high income residents. Multivariate regression affirmed that indoor air perchloroethylene level in dry cleaner buildings was the single most important factor determining perchloroethylene in blood and breath. Neither age, gender, nor socioeconomic status significantly influenced perchloroethylene levels in breath or blood. We previously reported that increased indoor air, breath, and blood perchloroethylene levels among NYC Perc Project child participants were associated with an increased risk for slightly altered vision. Thus, the disproportionately elevated perchloroethylene exposures of minority and low-income child residents of buildings with a dry cleaner shown here constitutes an environmental exposure disparity with potential public health consequences. Among residents of buildings without a dry cleaner, we observed some small increases in perchloroethylene breath and blood levels among non-minority or high income residents compared to minority or low income residents. These differences were not attributable to differences in indoor air levels of perchloroethylene which did not differ across socioeconomic categories, but appear to be associated with more frequent exposures dry cleaned garments.

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