Amid mounting concerns within the medical community about the potential health risks associated with flame retardant chemicals, new research highlights the high levels commonly found in the urine of both adults and children, indicating that the levels of the harmful chemicals have risen in recent years.
In a study published in the medical journal Environmental Science & Technology on February 8, researchers indicate that more than 90% of the adults and children tested had high levels of flame retardant chemicals in their bodies.
Researchers from Duke University focused on studies testing human exposure to different organophosphates, flame retardants and plasticizers. The data was collected from 2002 to 2015 from urinary concentration tests.
The study examined data from 14 U.S. epidemiological studies and assessed exposure to common organophosphates, including tris 1,3-dichloro-2-propyl phosphate (TDCIPP), chlorinated tris triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), bis 1,3-dichloro-2-propyl phosphate (BDCIPP) and diphenyl phosphate (DPHP).
More than 90% of the 900 adults and children tested during that time had high levels of TDCIPP and TPHP in their urine. Levels of TDCIPP were 17 times higher in adults in 2015 than they were in 2002.
Prior research has linked flame retardant chemicals to a number of serious health concerns. In a 2015 study, researchers found that flame retardant exposure during pregnancy increased a woman’s risk of having preterm birth, increasing the risk of health complications for the baby. Another study published last year linked flame retardants to hormone interference and greatly affecting thyroid function.
Among the findings of the new study, levels of TDCIPP increased by four-fold in children from 2010 to 2015. The levels of BDCIPP concentrations in both adults and children also increased since 2002, those increases were smaller.
Research concluded samples of BDCIPP collected in 2014 and 2015 had concentrations that were more than 15 times higher than those collected in 2002 and 2003. Researchers also found significant increases in DPHP levels.
Flame retardants are often added to foam furniture and the cushioning of baby products. This makes it especially easy for the harmful chemicals to accumulate in the household air and dust on the ground, where young children often play.
Study authors warn flame retardant chemicals can build up in the bodies of adults and children. Children are especially at risk considering they breathe in more air and are exposed to more dust containing the chemicals, relative to their body weight.
One study indicated high levels of flame retardants were found in children’s car seats. The hazardous chemicals are often added to protective foam padding, placing children at increased risk of health problems.
Another study indicated widely used gymnastic equipment included high levels of flame retardants. Gymnasts had a 50 percent increase in the levels of toxic flame retardant chemicals after training in facilities that used the chemicals. In fact, 89 percent of foam cubes for safety pits contained harmful flame retardants.
In 2014, California enacted a law that changed flammability requirements, encouraging companies to no longer use harmful flame retardants that can affect the reproductive system, cause cancer and cause cognitive impairment. The law required manufacturers who refrained from using the ubiquitous chemicals to include a tag labeled “TB 117-2013.”
In 2014, Kaiser Permanente announced the organization would no longer purchase furniture made with flame retardants for their healthcare facilities. Macy’s followed suit, and after intense pressure from environmental activists, announced they would stop using carcinogens and flame retardants in their furniture.