Flame Retardants Around Us and Inside Us?

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We’ve known about the dangers of flame retardants (and their increasing ubiquity in our environment) for a while, but a recent study found out that household exposure to carcinogenic flame retardants may be worse than we thought.

Researchers from Duke University and Environmental Working Group tested 22 mothers and 26 children for a number of different flame retardants, 100% of whom tested positive for the flame retardant TDCIPP in their urine. The children, on average had levels five times higher than their mothers, the researchers think, due to more hand-to-mouth, dust, and floor exposure.

Julia Lurie of Mother Jones gives a good synopsis of each of the flame retardants that were found in the study (and gives a good overview of why flame retardants are so ubiquitous). She also explains that the study looked at a new type of flame retardants:

When studies started suggesting that PBDE, a class of common flame retardants, was associated with neurodevelopmental problems in children, chemical manufacturers phased out PBDE chemicals between 2004 and 2013. The Duke/EWG study released this week was the first study to test exposure levels to flame retardants that have become popular since the phase out of PBDE."

One of these was FireMaster 550 ®, which, as Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune reports, is most likely not any safer than PBDEs:

A 2012 Tribune investigation revealed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency endorsed Firemaster 550 even though the agency's own scientists were deeply skeptical of its safety. Studies conducted by its manufacturer found that exposing rats to the flame retardant can lower birth weight, alter female genitalia, and cause skeletal malformations such as fused ribs and vertebrae.Independent scientists later found that small doses ... administered to rats can trigger obesity, anxiety, and other problems."

A new California law has already gone into effect to phase out these harsh chemicals, which is good news for all of us. However, more work must still be done. If you are as fired up (forgive the pun, please) as we are about flame retardants, hop on over to the EWG’s petition against TDCIPPs.

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