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: Nutrient pollution damages streams in ways previously unknown, ecologists find

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Deadly frog fungus dates back to 1880s, studies find

1 hour ago

A deadly fungus responsible for the extinction of more than 200 amphibian species worldwide has coexisted harmlessly with animals in Illinois and Korea for more than a century, a pair of studies have found.

Think twice about investing in own company

2 hours ago

Employees whose retirement plan is invested in stock of the company where they work do not pull out money as the firms approach financial distress, a recently released, but yet to be published paper, co-authored ...

Recommended for you

Coral reefs' physical conditions set biological rules of nature

20 hours ago

Much ecological literature focuses on the effects that human actions have on species, habitats or ecosystems. Unfortunately, human effects on the natural world are often negative. Whether it's deforestation, carbon emissions, plastic pollution or industrialized fishing to na ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.