Scientists Raise Concerns About Flame Retardants

THURSDAY Oct. 28, 2010 -- Flame retardants used in a wide range of consumer products pose a threat to human health and may not even be all that effective, according to a statement signed by nearly 150 scientists from 22 countries.

Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants (BFRs and CFRs) are used in products such as televisions, computers, cell phones, upholstered furniture, mattresses, carpet pads, textiles, airplanes and cars.

These chemicals are accumulating in the environment and in humans, and some of them may harm unborn children, affect people's hormones, and may even play a role in causing cancer, according to the San Antonio Statement, named for the Texas city that hosted the 30th International Symposium of Halogenated Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) last month.

The statement said that "BFRs and CFRs can increase fire toxicity and their overall benefit in improving fire safety has not been proven." It also states that these fire retardants "can increase the release of carbon monoxide, toxic gases and soot, which are the cause of most fire deaths and injuries."

The statement called on manufacturers to provide more information about the toxicity testing of these flame retardants and for governments to respond to the health and environmental threats posed by BFRs and CFRs.

The statement and an accompanying editorial were released online Oct. 28 ahead of print in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"No one wants to decrease fire safety, but the [persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic] properties of BFRs and CFRs should trigger the development of safer alternatives," suggests the editorial.

"Just as we have known for years that significant exposure to lead occurred via house dust, why has it taken us so long to understand that BFRs and CFRs, which are used in consumer products, can also escape . . . into house, office, car and airplane dust, and will also end up in people, as well as the environment and wildlife? Why do we not learn from the past?"

More information

The Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment has more about flame retardants.

Posted: October 2010


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