Chemical in Yellow Products May Be Toxic, Researchers Say

March 19, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. noxious /ˈnɒkʃəs/ (adj.) – unsafe for humans and the environment
Example: The government is getting rid of chemical plants that produce noxious wastes.

2. dye /daɪ/ (n.) – a coloring substance
Example: He used the dye to change his hair color.

3. not cut it /nɒt kʌt ɪt/ (idiom) – cannot fully solve a problem or achieve a desired result
Example: If you want to be fit, eating healthy food without exercise will not cut it

4. contaminate /kənˈtæməˌneɪt/ (v.) – to make something harmful to one’s health
Example: People can contaminate food by not washing their hands before cooking.

5. inadvertent /ˌɪnədˈvɜrtnt/ (adj.) – not done purposely; unplanned
Example: The inadvertent addition of too much salt damaged the meal’s flavor.


Read the text below.
Scientists warn people that yellow-colored products may contain a noxious chemical that may harm one’s health.

This chemical is called Polychlorinated Biphenyl 11 [pol-ee-KLAWR-uh-ney-tid bahy-FEN-l] or PCB 11. It is often present in products with yellow dyes, such as inks, paint, paper, and even clothes.

In a recent study, researchers at Rutgers [RUHT-gurs] University examined 16 yellow clothing and 28 non-U.S. paper samples with yellow ink, such as postcards and maps. They found that all of these have PCB 11. They were also able to detect PCB 11 in 15 out of 18 paper products manufactured in the U.S. Another study discovered that the chemical is also present in food packaging and plastic bags.

Lisa Rodenburg [LEE-suh ROH-den-berg], one of the recent study’s authors, said there is enough evidence to show that PCB 11 has harmful effects to health. Previous studies revealed that the chemical can cause cancer, birth defects, growth problems, and skin irritations. Rodenburg added that avoiding yellow items will still not cut it, since the toxins from the yellow-colored objects can still spread in air and water.

Despite the risks, Rodenburg said the public should not panic, as further study is still needed to assess the complete health effects of PCB 11. She also emphasized that not all yellow-colored items have the harmful chemical.

To stop the production of PCB 11, the U.S. Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1979. This law was proposed and approved after the chemical contaminated some environmental resources. However, the authorities found difficulties in regulating the inadvertent production of the chemical. Thus, the government allowed the production of PCB 11, but only at very low levels.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Would you still use yellow-colored products after reading the article? Why or why not?
·         How do you think the U.S. government can completely stop the production of PCB 11?

Discussion B

·         Why do you think some products today have harmful chemicals?
·         How can we avoid harmful chemicals? Please explain.


March 19, 2014