Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Flame retardants


California’s furniture flammability standard Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117) is believed to be a major driver of chemical flame retardant (FR) use in residential furniture in the United States. With the phase-out of the polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) FR mixture PentaBDE in 2005, alternative FRs are increasingly being used to meet TB 117; however, it was unclear which chemicals were being used and how frequently. To address this data gap, we collected and analyzed 102 samples of polyurethane foam from residential couches purchased in the United States from 1985 to 2010. Overall, we detected chemical flame retardants in 85% of the couches. In samples purchased prior to 2005 (n = 41) PBDEs associated with the PentaBDE mixture including BDEs 47, 99, and 100 (PentaBDE) were the most common FR detected (39%), followed by tris(1,3-dichloroisopropyl) phosphate (TDCPP; 24%), which is a suspected human carcinogen. In samples purchased in 2005 or later (n = 61) the most common FRs detected were TDCPP (52%) and components associated with the Firemaster550 (FM 550) mixture (18%). Since the 2005 phase-out of PentaBDE, the use of TDCPP increased significantly. In addition, a mixture of nonhalogenated organophosphate FRs that included triphenyl phosphate (TPP), tris(4-butylphenyl) phosphate (TBPP), and a mix of butylphenyl phosphate isomers were observed in 13% of the couch samples purchased in 2005 or later. Overall the prevalence of flame retardants (and PentaBDE) was higher in couches bought in California compared to elsewhere, although the difference was not quite significant (p = 0.054 for PentaBDE). The difference was greater before 2005 than after, suggesting that TB 117 is becoming a de facto standard across the U.S. We determined that the presence of a TB 117 label did predict the presence of a FR; however, lack of a label did not predict the absence of a flame retardant. Following the PentaBDE phase out, we also found an increased number of flame retardants on the market. Given these results, and the potential for human exposure to FRs, health studies should be conducted on the types of FRs identified here.

Concepts: United States, Mixture, Fire retardant, Flame retardant, Decabromodiphenyl ether, Polychlorinated biphenyl, Flame retardants, De facto


Higher house dust levels of PBDE flame retardants (FRs) have been reported in California than other parts of the world, due to the state’s furniture flammability standard. However, changing levels of these and other FRs have not been evaluated following the 2004 U.S. phase-out of PentaBDE and OctaBDE. We analyzed dust collected in 16 California homes in 2006 and again in 2011 for 62 FRs and organohalogens, which represents the broadest investigation of FRs in homes. Fifty-five compounds were detected in at least one sample; 41 in at least 50% of samples. Concentrations of chlorinated OPFRs, including two (TCEP and TDCIPP) listed as carcinogens under California’s Proposition 65, were found up to 0.01% in dust, higher than previously reported in the U.S. In 75% of the homes, we detected TDBPP, or brominated “Tris,” which was banned in children’s sleepwear because of carcinogenicity. To our knowledge, this is the first report on TDBPP in house dust. Concentrations of Firemaster 550 components (EH-TBB, BEH-TEBP, and TPHP) were higher in 2011 than 2006, consistent with its use as a PentaBDE replacement. Results highlight the evolving nature of FR exposures and suggest that manufacturers continue to use hazardous chemicals and replace chemicals of concern with chemicals with uncharacterized toxicity.

Concepts: DNA, United States, Fire retardant, Plastic, Decabromodiphenyl ether, Brominated flame retardant, Flame retardants, Dust explosion


Women have elevated rates of thyroid disease compared to men. Environmental toxicants have been implicated as contributors to this dimorphism, including polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), flame retardant chemicals that disrupt thyroid hormone action. PBDEs have also been implicated in the disruption of estrogenic activity, and estrogen levels regulate thyroid hormones. Post-menopausal women may therefore be particularly vulnerable to PBDE induced thyroid effects, given low estrogen reserves. The objective of this study was to test for an association between serum PBDE concentrations and thyroid disease in women from the United States (U.S.), stratified by menopause status.

Concepts: Hormone replacement therapy, Hormone, Menopause, Estrogen, Luteinizing hormone, Thyroid hormone, Flame retardant, Flame retardants


BACKGROUND: Flame retardant chemicals are used in materials on airplanes to slow the propagation of fire. These chemicals migrate from their source products and can be found in the dust of airplanes, creating the potential for exposure. METHODS: To characterize exposure to flame retardant chemicals in airplane dust, we collected dust samples from locations inside 19 commercial airplanes parked overnight at airport gates. In addition, hand-wipe samples were also collected from 9 flight attendants and 1 passenger who had just taken a cross-country (USA) flight. The samples were analyzed for a suite of flame retardant chemicals. To identify the possible sources for the brominated flame retardants, we used a portable XRF analyzer to quantify bromine concentrations in materials inside the airplanes. RESULTS: A wide range of flame retardant compounds were detected in 100% of the dust samples collected from airplanes, including BDEs 47, 99, 153, 183 and 209, tris(1,3-dichloro-isopropyl)phosphate (TDCPP), hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and bis-(2-ethylhexyl)-tetrabromo-phthalate (TBPH). Airplane dust contained elevated concentrations of BDE 209 (GM: 500 ug/g; range: 2,600 ug/g) relative to other indoor environments, such as residential and commercial buildings, and the hands of participants after a cross-country flight contained elevated BDE 209 concentrations relative to the general population. TDCPP, a known carcinogen that was removed from use in children’s pajamas in the 1970’s although still used today in other consumer products, was detected on 100% of airplanes in concentrations similar to those found in residential and commercial locations. CONCLUSION: This study adds to the limited body of knowledge regarding exposure to flame retardants on commercial aircraft, an environment long hypothesized to be at risk for maximum exposures due to strict flame retardant standards for aircraft materials. Our findings indicate that flame retardants are widely used in many airplane components and all airplane types, as expected. Most flame retardants, including TDCPP, were detected in 100% of dust samples collected from the airplanes. The concentrations of BDE 209 were elevated by orders of magnitude relative to residential and office environments.

Concepts: Fire retardant, Flame retardant, Decabromodiphenyl ether, Bromine, Brominated flame retardant, Flame retardants, Hexabromocyclododecane, Aircraft


Evidence from animal studies suggests that exposure to organophosphate flame retardants (PFRs) can disrupt endocrine function and impair embryo development. However, no epidemiologic studies have been conducted to evaluate effects on fertility and pregnancy outcomes.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Embryo, Fetus, Fertility, In vitro fertilisation, Fire retardant, Flame retardant, Flame retardants


Children are exposed to flame retardants from the built environment. Brominated diphenyl ethers (BDE) and organophosphate-based flame retardants (OPFRs) are associated with poorer neurocognitive functioning in children. Less is known, however, about the association between these classes of compounds and children’s emotional and social behaviors. The objective of this study was to determine if flame retardant exposure was associated with measurable differences in social behaviors among children ages 3-5 years.

Concepts: Fire retardant, Flame retardant, Decabromodiphenyl ether, Polychlorinated biphenyl, Brominated flame retardant, Flame retardants, Antimony trioxide


Brominated flame retardants (BFRs), are chemicals widely used in consumer products including electronics, vehicles, plastics and textiles to reduce flammability. Experimental animal studies have confirmed that these compounds may interfere with thyroid hormone homeostasis and neurodevelopment but to date health effects in humans have not been systematically examined.

Concepts: Organism, Thyroid hormone, Fire retardant, Flame retardant, Decabromodiphenyl ether, Brominated flame retardant, Flame retardants, Hexabromocyclododecane


Paired human breast milk and scalp hair samples (n=30) were obtained in 2008 from primipara and multipara mothers living in two locations in the Philippines viz., Payatas, a waste dumpsite, and Malate, a non-dumpsite. Samples were analyzed for three groups of organohalogenated compounds, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDs). PCBs were the predominantly identified compounds (median: 70ng/g lipid wt.) in all the breast milk samples. In the human milk, CB-153 was the most dominant PCB congener (17-44% contribution to the sum PCB), closely followed by CB-138 (12-35%), CB-118 (4-12%), CB-180 (2-13%), CB-187 (3-13%), and CB-170 (1.5-10%). Levels of PBDEs (median: 3.0ng/g lipid wt.) in human milk samples from the Philippines were similar to other Asian or European countries. BDE-47, -99, -100 and -153 were the major PBDE congeners. For HBCDs, the α-isomer was predominant followed by the γ-HBCD isomer in the both locations. PBDE levels in human milk were significantly higher in the dumpsite (3.9ng/g lipid wt.) than in the non-dump site (2.2ng/g lipid wt.). PBDE concentrations (including BDE-209) were significantly higher (median: 70ng/g hair) than those of PCBs (median: 30ng/g hair) and HBCDs (median: 1.0ng/g hair) in all the scalp hair samples. To our knowledge, this is the first report on HBCDs in human scalp hair. PBDE congeners in scalp hair were dominated by BDE-209 and BDE-47. On a congener basis, the levels of PBDEs found in scalp hair were higher than those in Spain (children and adults) and China (general people). PCB levels found in scalp hair were higher than those in Greece, Romania and Belgium, but lower than those in China. In this study, there were no significant differences in the concentration of PCBs and HBCDs in human milk; and PCBs, HBCDs and PBDEs in human scalp hair from the two different locations. No significant correlations were observed between PCBs, PBDEs and HBCDs levels and age of mothers in this study, which may be due to the small number of samples. Furthermore, there was no correlation between milk and hair levels for more persistent compounds (PCB-153, PCB-138, or BDE-47), and thus it is worthy to follow-up in future studies along with more number of samples. This is the first report to provide measurement data for PCBs, PBDEs and HBCDs in paired milk and hair of populations in the Philippines.

Concepts: Milk, Flame retardant, Breast, Breast milk, Polychlorinated biphenyl, Biphenyl, Brominated flame retardant, Flame retardants


In Asian developing countries, large amounts of municipal wastes are dumped into open dumping sites each day without adequate management. This practice may cause several adverse environmental consequences and increase health risks to local communities. These dumping sites are contaminated with many chemicals including brominated flame retardants (BFRs) such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDs). BFRs may be released into the environment through production processes and through the disposal of plastics and electronic wastes that contain them. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the status of BFR pollution in municipal waste dumping sites in Asian developing countries. Soil samples were collected from six open waste dumping sites and five reference sites in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam from 1999 to 2007. The results suggest that PBDEs are the dominant contaminants in the dumping sites in Asian developing countries, whereas HBCD contamination remains low. Concentrations of PBDEs and HBCDs ranged from ND to 180μg/kg dry wt and ND to 1.4μg/kg dry wt, respectively, in the reference sites and from 0.20 to 430μg/kg dry wt and ND to 2.5μg/kg dry wt, respectively, in the dumping sites. Contamination levels of PBDEs in Asian municipal dumping sites were comparable with those reported from electronic waste dismantling areas in Pearl River delta, China.

Concepts: Pollution, Flame retardant, Waste management, Waste, Brominated flame retardant, Flame retardants, Hazardous waste, Hexabromocyclododecane


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are known brominated flame retardants that have now been banned or phased out in many parts of the world. As a consequence, interest in the environmental occurrence of non-PBDE flame retardants has increased. In the present study several potential PBDE replacement products together with short chained chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) were assessed in Greenland sharks accidentally caught in waters around Iceland between 2001 and 2003. Non-PBDE flame retardants detected were pentabromoethylbenzene (PBEB), 1,2-bis(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)ethane (BTBPE) and 2,3,5,6-tetrabromo-p-xylene (TBX). The concentrations were lower than levels of BDE-47 but similar to other PBDE congeners previously reported in Greenland shark. The median concentrations of SCCPs was 430ngg(-1) fat, similar to individual PCB congeners previously reported. This is the first report of SCCPs, BTBPE, PBEB and TBX in any shark species globally and confirms the usefulness of the Greenland shark as a screening species for environmental contamination in the Arctic and sub-Arctic environment.

Concepts: Polychlorinated biphenyl, Brominated flame retardant, Flame retardants, Shark, Greenland shark, Somniosus, Pacific sleeper shark, Reindeer