Humans and dogs have been exposed to at least nine potentially harmful pesticide chemicals in the air around Boulder County homes, a University of Colorado air quality study found.

Aniya Khalili, a University of Colorado Boulder mechanical engineering doctoral candidate, used high-resolution mass spectrometry to analyze samples from wristbands worn by 38 humans and collar clips worn by their dogs for a week last fall. Three of the nine compounds the researchers found—n-nitrosodiphenylamine, 4-nitroaniline and 4-chloroaniline, which can cause eye, skin and respiratory tract irritation—showed up in every one of the human and dog samples.

“These results could mean that the chemicals are in the air since the 38 people are not living together and have different lifestyles,” Khalili says. “If they are exposed to the same compound, it could say something about the community that we are living in.”

The study also found two banned chemicals, DDD and DDT, in some of the humans and dogs. This is “a big deal,” Khalili says, because “we shouldn’t be exposed to these compounds at all.”

Khalili hopes the study will help educate people and empower government officials to enact stronger regulations. The researchers are applying for funds to repeat the study next spring.

“My hope is that this won’t be the last research regarding pesticides—it’s just the start,” Khalili says. “The benefits are for the community, as long as the people in power pay attention to the results.”

You can learn more about how to protect your health and the environment from pesticides at epa.gov/pesticides.

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