(NaturalNews) Two new studies published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology confirm that the average home is filled with toxic flame retardant chemicals that may cause anything from cancer to hormonal problems to birth defects.
In the first study, researchers from the Silent Spring Institute and the University of Antwerp, Belgium, tested the dust of 16 California homes in both 2006 and 2011 for the presence of 49 separate flame retardant chemicals. Although flame retardants typically enter the home in furniture, textiles, electronics and other such products, dust is the primary route of human exposure.
The tests were performed in California due to that state's strict fire safety standards for household products. Because companies want to be able to sell to the California market, the majority of products sold in the U.S. are now manufactured to meet those standards.
"Our study found that people are exposed to toxic flame retardants every day," co-author Robin Dodson said. "These hazardous chemicals are in the air we breathe, the dust we touch and the couches we sit on."
Toxic chemicals prevalent
The researchers found 44 of the 49 chemicals in at least one home. At least 50 percent of all samples taken contained at least one of 36 specific chemicals. The majority of homes had levels of at least one chemical in excess of federal safety standards.
The vast majority of flame retardant chemicals have never undergone safety testing, and so there are no established exposure thresholds. However, the researchers found five chemicals at levels exceeding federal standards: BDE 47, BDE 99, TCEP, TDCIPP and BB 153.
TCEP and TDCIPP (also known as chlorinated Tris) belong to the group of chemicals known as chlorinated organophosphates, and it was these that were found in highest levels. Both are known carcinogens. A related chemical, TDBPP (brominated Tris) was banned from children's pajamas in 1977 because it is known to damage DNA and cause mammary (breast) tumors in animals. It continues to be used in other products; however, and the researchers found it in 75 percent of all homes in the 2011 tests.
In the second study, researchers from Duke University tested 102 samples of polyurethane foam from couches purchased for U.S. residential use between 1985 and 2010.
More than 50 percent contained flame retardants that were either known to be harmful or that had never been safety tested. 41 percent contained Tris. Another 17 percent contained pentaBDE, which was voluntarily phased out in the United States in 2005 due to its damaging effects on thyroid regulation and brain and fetal development. Like many other flame retardants, pentaBDE accumulates in human tissues and the environment.
Yet, pentaBDE and other banned or discontinued flame retardants are often replaced by chemicals that are just as harmful.
"It's not comforting to swap one hazardous chemical for its evil cousin," said Julia Brody, co-author of the Silent Spring study."Instead, we should test chemicals before they are allowed on the market."