Flame Retardant Exposure Linked to House Dust

Dec 30, 2004

Common house dust may be an important source of a potentially dangerous class of chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), according to an exploratory study* by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Recent studies by others have found that PBDEs have been accumulating in human blood, fat tissue and breast milk.

PBDEs have been widely used in consumer products for years because they are effective flame retardants, greatly increasing the fire safety of products ranging from carpeting and cushions to televisions, computers and coffee makers. In recent years, however, concerns have grown with evidence that PBDE concentrations are increasing rapidly both in the environment and in human tissues and body fluids. Toxicological data on PBDEs is still limited, but the compounds have been implicated in developmental, reproductive, neurotoxicity and thyroid effects in rats, mice and fish, and may be carcinogenic. Researchers in Europe and the United States found concentrations of PBDEs higher in Americans than in Europeans, although it is not known if these levels affect human health.

Some studies have suggested that people accumulate PBDEs through diet (similar to polychlorinated biphyenyls or PCBs), however, diet alone does not seem to explain the high levels of PBDEs that have been measured in human breast milk and serum. According to the new NIST/EPA study, house dust and the home environment are likely candidates for other sources of exposure.

A survey of 17 homes in the Washington, D.C., and Charleston, S.C., areas found high concentrations of PBDEs in household dust, ranging from 700 to 30,100 nanograms per gram. Researchers analyzed both dust from floors and clothes dryer lint for 22 variants of commercial PBDEs and found PBDEs in every sample. Interestingly, there was little correlation between PBDE levels and the age of the dwelling or the number of foam cushions or appliances, but smaller dwellings tended towards higher concentrations of the PBDEs commonly used in high-impact polystyrene for TV and computer casings.

Although the new study is limited, say researchers, it highlights the need to study house dust as the primary source of PBDE exposure. In particular, the authors note that small children are more at risk than adults to dust exposures since they are more prone to putting dusty hands and toys in their mouths.

*H. Stapleton, N. Dodder, J. Offenberg, M. Schantz, and S.Wise. “Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers in House Dust and Clothes Dryer Lint.” Environmental Science and Technology, published online Dec. 29, 2004.

Source: NIST

Explore further: Physicists create tool to foresee language destruction impact and thus prevent it

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Flame retardants in blood drop after state ban

Sep 25, 2013

A class of flame retardants that has been linked to learning difficulties in children has rapidly declined in pregnant women's blood since the chemicals were banned in California a decade ago, according to a study led by ...

Study links reduced fertility to flame retardant exposure

Jan 26, 2010

Women with higher blood levels of PBDEs, a type of flame retardant commonly found in household consumer products, took longer to become pregnant compared with women who have lower PBDE levels, according to a new study by ...

Recommended for you

Affirmative action elicits bias in pro-equality Caucasians

3 hours ago

New research from Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business indicates that bias towards the effects of affirmative action exists in not only people opposed to it, but also in those who strongly endorse equality.

Narcissistic CEOs and financial performance

22 hours ago

Narcissism, considered by some as the "dark side of the executive personality," may actually be a good thing when it comes to certain financial measures, with companies led by narcissistic CEOs outperforming those helmed ...

Election surprises tend to erode trust in government

22 hours ago

When asked who is going to win an election, people tend to predict their own candidate will come out on top. When that doesn't happen, according to a new study from the University of Georgia, these "surprised losers" often ...

User comments : 0