Potentially toxic flame retardants highest in California households

Oct 06, 2008
Scientists report that California residents have higher-than-average blood levels of a possibly toxic flame retardant called PBDEs, which are used in upholstered furniture and electronics. Credit: Arlene Blum

In what may be an unintended consequence of efforts to make furniture safer and less flammable, residents of California have blood levels of potentially toxic flame retardants called PBDEs at levels nearly twice the national average, scientists from Massachusetts and California are reporting. Their study, the first to examine regional variations in PBDE levels in household dust and blood within the U.S., is scheduled for posting online Oct. 1 by ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In the new study, Ami Zota and colleagues note that PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are widely used as flame retardants in upholstered furniture and electronics.

The materials are released into the environment as dust particles, where they can accumulate in homes as well as human blood and tissue. Although their exact effects in humans are unclear, studies in animals suggest that PBDEs may cause thyroid, developmental, and reproductive problems. Since California has among the most stringent furniture flammability standards, the researchers suspected that state residents may have higher levels of PBDE dust exposure than others in the United States.

To find out, the scientists compared data on PBDE concentrations in house dust from 49 California homes with concentrations reported from 120 Massachusetts homes and several other areas. The researchers also compared data on blood levels of PBDEs in California residents to blood levels in residents of other regions. They found that PBDE levels in California homes were four to 10 times higher than other U.S. areas.

They also found that blood levels of some PBDEs were significantly higher in California residents than the rest of the country. "These findings raise concern about pending regulations and performance standards that encourage the widespread use of chemical flame retardants, which are toxic or whose safety is uncharacterized," the article states.

Source: ACS

Explore further: Dead floppy drive: Kenya recycles global e-waste

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tattoo biobatteries produce power from sweat

Aug 13, 2014

In the future, working up a sweat by exercising may not only be good for your health, but it could also power your small electronic devices. Researchers will report today that they have designed a sensor ...

Lead released from African cookware contaminates food

Aug 12, 2014

Lead levels in foods prepared in aluminum pots from Cameroon exceed U.S. guidelines for lead consumption according to a new study published this month. A typical serving contains almost 200 times more lead ...

What geology has to say about global warming

Jul 14, 2014

Last month I gave a public lecture entitled, "When Maine was California," to an audience in a small town in Maine. It drew parallels between California, today, and Maine, 400 million years ago, when similar ...

Recommended for you

Dead floppy drive: Kenya recycles global e-waste

39 minutes ago

In an industrial area outside Kenya's capital city, workers in hard hats and white masks take shiny new power drills to computer parts. This assembly line is not assembling, though. It is dismantling some ...

New paper calls for more carbon capture and storage research

5 hours ago

Federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must involve increased investment in research and development of carbon capture and storage technologies, according to a new paper published by the University of Wyoming's ...

Coal gas boom in China holds climate change risks

10 hours ago

Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble ...

User comments : 0