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A chemical found in babies' dummies, rubber gloves and condoms 'probably causes cancer' according to The World Health Organisation. MBT, a chemical used in the manufacturing of rubber is found in numerous household items, including, soft playground surfaces made of 'rubber crumb', medical catheters, car tyres, rubber insoles, air beds, elastic bands, babies' dummies and swimming caps and goggles.
Rubber crumb, which is made from recycled tyres, is also a key component of the all-weather 3G football pitches, which it is claimed contain mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxic chemicals.
At a meeting in Lyon, France, 24 experts from eight countries described the chemical as an 'encyclopaedia of carcinogens'. The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer reviewed data on the substance, including a study of workers at a Welsh chemical factory. The research, by professor Tom Sorahan, of Birmingham University, linked MBT to bladder cancer, bowel cancer and a type of blood cancer. But because the workers were also exposed to other chemicals, it was not possible to determine whether MBT was to blame.
Professor Hans Kromhout, a member of the committee that reviewed the chemical, said: "It has been identified in gloves and baby bottle teats and soothers. It has recently been identified in inhalable road dust with the wearing of rubber tyres the most likely source of this contamination."
While the chemical has been found to raise the risk of cancer in animals, reporting their findings in the journal Lancet Oncology the WHO ruled there was a strong possibility it was also harmful to people.
According to Mail Online, a spokesman said: "MBT is used mainly in manufacturing rubber products. 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 tyre dust in urban air. Risks to the public at large from these types of exposures have not been studied.'
While campaigners have urged people to ask retailers if MBT – full name 2-mercaptobenzothiazole – was in products before buying them, a leading British expert on chemical exposure urged the public not to worry, explaining that items of everyday usage were unlikely to pose a threat.
Professor Sorahan said that while large amounts of MBT in factories could be dangerous, the small amounts used in everyday products were not likely to be harmful. "I doubt whether MBT is a health issue for the general population but workers manufacturing or using the chemical need to be protected," he explained.
But Dr Michael Warhurst of campaign group CHEM Trust, said: "We need the regulatory system to work faster to protect us. People would be right to be concerned about this, and to ask retailers whether this chemical is present in products that they have bought."