Household dust is main source of flame retardants in humans

Household dust is the main route of exposure to flame retardants for people from toddlers to adults followed by eating animal and dairy products, according to a report in the July 15 issue of the American Chemical Societys journal Environmental Science & Technology. ACS is the worlds largest scientific society. Until this study, which is based on a computer model developed by Canadian researchers, scientists have been unsure exactly how people are being exposed.

PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) used widely as flame-retardant additives in electronics and furniture have been detected in humans across the globe, with especially high levels in North America. Little is known about the specific toxic effects of brominated flame retardants, but some researchers say that the increasing presence of the compounds in human tissue is cause for concern because they have been associated with cancer and other health problems in animal studies.

Our work is good news and bad news, says the studys lead author, Miriam Diamond, Ph.D., an environmental chemist at the University of Toronto. Good news because weve identified the main route of exposure to PBDEs house dust; bad news because we need more action to remove PBDEs from household products and replace them with alternatives that are effective in reducing hazards related to fires and that do not accumulate in the environment.

PBDEs are released into the environment at their manufacturing sources and also through everyday product wear and tear, which is the presumed source of the chemicals in house dust, according to Diamond. Asked if drinking water could be a possible source, Diamond said: No, its not a significant route of exposure.

A small study published earlier this year in ES&T found PBDEs in the dust of 16 homes tested in the Washington, D.C., area and one home in Charleston, S.C. The work of Diamond and her co-authors builds on that research with a more complete an

Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society

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