Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study finds hazardous flame retardants in preschools

15.05.2014

A new study of preschools and day care centers finds that flame retardants are prevalent indoors, potentially exposing young children to chemicals known to be hazardous.

The study, to appear online Thursday, May 15, in the journal Chemosphere, was led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and funded by the California Air Resources Board. Although many infants and young children spend up to 50 hours per week in day care, the study authors noted that this paper represents the first systematic review of flame retardants in early child care settings.

The researchers covered 40 child care centers serving 1,764 children in Monterey and Alameda counties. The facilities were located in a mix of urban, rural and agricultural areas. The researchers collected air and floor dust samples when the children were present, and tested for 14 different PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and four non-PBDE flame retardants, including tris phosphate compounds.

The study found both PBDEs and tris phosphate compounds in 100 percent of the dust samples collected. Median levels of PBDEs were somewhat lower than those found in homes in other studies, but median levels of chlorinated tris were similar to or higher than household levels found in other studies.

"These findings underscore how widespread these materials are in indoor environments," said study lead author Asa Bradman, associate director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health Research at UC Berkeley. "A growing body of research has found links between flame retardants and a range of human health effects, including neurodevelopmental delays in children. Children are more vulnerable to the health effects of environmental contaminants, so we should be particularly careful to reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals."

While flame retardants were commonplace in dust, the good news is that levels of the chemicals were generally low in air samples.

Old flame retardant resurfaces

Of the facilities surveyed, 29 had upholstered furniture and 17 had napping equipment made out of foam. Facilities with foam had significantly higher concentrations of flame retardant chemicals than the centers without such equipment.

In response to growing health concerns about these chemicals, California banned the use of two types of PBDEs in 2006. Furniture manufacturers also began phasing them out, but products made before the ban are still found in many buildings.

The detection of the older class of flame retardants was more surprising. In the 1970s, UC Berkeley research by Arlene Blum, a postdoctoral researcher at the time, and Bruce Ames, UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology, showed that brominated tris was a mutagen and presumed carcinogen. That work helped lead to the chemical's removal from children's sleepwear.

"I remember learning about the tris phosphate flame retardants in kids' pajamas when I was in high school 35 years ago, so it's a bit surprising to still be seeing them today," said Bradman. "They were never banned. There seems to have been a resurgence in recent years as manufacturers looked for PBDE replacements."

Earlier this year, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control identified children's foam sleeping pads containing flame retardants as one of three products considered harmful to consumers. Agency officials specifically cited nap mats, bassinets and infant travel beds as items that commonly contain chlorinated tris phosphate, a carcinogen and hormone-disrupter.

Change in flammability standards could mean fewer chemicals

New changes in state flammability standards may soon eliminate the need to use those chemical replacements. Previous regulations required the foam in consumer items to withstand a small open flame for 12 seconds without igniting.

Blum, now executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute and a UC Berkeley visiting scholar in chemistry, noted that the old standard, known as TB117, did not help fire safety since it is the fabric covering the foam that needs to be fire resistant. The standard, she noted, had led to the extensive use of flame retardants in furniture and foam baby products without providing a fire safety benefit.

Gov. Jerry Brown, presented with evidence that the flame retardant chemicals are linked to health concerns, ordered an update to the state flammability standard. The new regulation, TB117-2013, requires fabrics of upholstered furniture to withstand smolders, such as from lit cigarettes. It takes effect this year, and will be mandatory by January 2015.

"The new standard is not a ban on flame retardants, but manufacturers can meet it without using the chemicals," said Blum. "Most upholstered fabrics, such as leather, are already smolder-proof. Consumers should verify that the furniture they are buying is free of flame retardants, especially when children will be exposed."

###

Other co-authors of the study include researchers from the Battelle Memorial Institute in Ohio, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the California Air Resources Board.

Sarah Yang | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.berkeley.edu

Further reports about: Chemosphere Environmental carcinogen chemicals foam hazardous phosphate

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Risk-taking propensity changes, especially in young adulthood and in older age
29.01.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht Designing a pop-up future
27.01.2016 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Automated driving: Steering without limits

OmniSteer project to increase automobiles’ urban maneuverability begins with a € 3.4 million budget

Automobiles increase the mobility of their users. However, their maneuverability is pushed to the limit by cramped inner city conditions. Those who need to...

Im Focus: Microscopy: Nine at one blow

Advance in biomedical imaging: The University of Würzburg's Biocenter has enhanced fluorescence microscopy to label and visualise up to nine different cell structures simultaneously.

Fluorescence microscopy allows researchers to visualise biomolecules in cells. They label the molecules using fluorescent probes, excite them with light and...

Im Focus: NASA's ICESat-2 equipped with unique 3-D manufactured part

NASA's follow-on to the successful ICESat mission will employ a never-before-flown technique for determining the topography of ice sheets and the thickness of sea ice, but that won't be the only first for this mission.

Slated for launch in 2018, NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) also will carry a 3-D printed part made of polyetherketoneketone (PEKK),...

Im Focus: Sinking islands: Does the rise of sea level endanger the Takuu Atoll in the Pacific?

In the last decades, sea level has been rising continuously – about 3.3 mm per year. For reef islands such as the Maldives or the Marshall Islands a sinister picture is being painted evoking the demise of the island states and their cultures. Are the effects of sea-level rise already noticeable on reef islands? Scientists from the ZMT have now answered this question for the Takuu Atoll, a group of Pacific islands, located northeast of Papua New Guinea.

In the last decades, sea level has been rising continuously – about 3.3 mm per year. For reef islands such as the Maldives or the Marshall Islands a sinister...

Im Focus: Energy-saving minicomputers for the ‘Internet of Things’

The ‘Internet of Things’ is growing rapidly. Mobile phones, washing machines and the milk bottle in the fridge: the idea is that minicomputers connected to these will be able to process information, receive and send data. This requires electrical power. Transistors that are capable of switching information with a single electron use far less power than field effect transistors that are commonly used in computers. However, these innovative electronic switches do not yet work at room temperature. Scientists working on the new EU research project ‘Ions4Set’ intend to change this. The program will be launched on February 1. It is coordinated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR).

“Billions of tiny computers will in future communicate with each other via the Internet or locally. Yet power consumption currently remains a great obstacle”,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

AKL’16: Experience Laser Technology Live in Europe´s Largest Laser Application Center!

02.02.2016 | Event News

From intelligent knee braces to anti-theft backpacks

26.01.2016 | Event News

DATE 2016 Highlighting Automotive and Secure Systems

26.01.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new potential biomarker for cancer imaging

05.02.2016 | Life Sciences

Graphene is strong, but is it tough?

05.02.2016 | Materials Sciences

Tiniest Particles Shrink Before Exploding When Hit With SLAC's X-ray Laser

05.02.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>