WHO Experts Link Chemical In Rubber Products To Cancer

| by Kathryn Schroeder

A chemical found in many rubber products, including condoms and pacifiers, may cause cancer, according to a report by World Health Organization experts that was obtained by the Daily Mail.

MBT, or 2-Mercaptobenzothiazole, which is used in rubber manufacturing, has previously been found to cause various skin irritations, according to the CDC.

It may now be linked to cancer.

In a Lyon, France, meeting, 24 world health experts from eight countries said there was enough evidence that MBT may cause cancer to add it to its list of carcinogens.

“It has been identified in gloves and baby bottle teats and soothers,” one of the experts who researched MBT, orofessor Hans Kromhout, said. ”It has recently been identified in inhalable road dust with the wearing of rubber [tires] the most likely source of this contamination."

It may also be found in soft playground substances made of rubber crumb, condoms, insoles for shoes, air beds, elastic bands and swimming caps and goggles.

The WHO now rates MBT as something that “probably causes cancer,” according to the Daily Mail.

Other items on its carcinogens list are cigarettes, asbestos and red meat.

The general public should not be overly concerned, one expert said, but those who work in the manufacturing of products that contain MBT are most at risk.

“MBT is used mainly in manufacturing rubber products," a WHO spokesman said. “The most important exposures are to workers in the chemical and rubber industries. The general public may be exposed to small amounts of MBT by skin contact with some rubber goods, such as gloves and footwear, or by inhaling [tire] dust in urban air. Risks to the public at large from these types of exposures have not been studied.”

“I doubt whether MBT is a health issue for the general population but workers manufacturing or using the chemical need to be protected,” professor Tom Sorahan, who researched the effects of MBT on workers at a Welsh chemical factory, said.

Dr. Michael Warhurst of the CHEM Trust organization believes otherwise.

“We need the regulatory system to work faster to protect us, Warhurst said. "People would be right to be concerned about this, and to ask retailers whether this chemical is present in products that they have bought."

Sources: Daily Mail, CDC / Photo credit: barockschloss/Flickr

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