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Researchers Identified Flame Retardant, TCEP in Americans for the First Time

Update Date: Nov 12, 2014 11:22 AM EST

Americans are contaminated with many toxic flame retardants, a new study reported. According to the researchers at the Silent Spring Institute and the University of Antwerp, one of these flame retardants, TCEP, has never been identified in Americans before.

"We found that several toxic flame retardants are in people's bodies. When you sit on your couch, you want to relax, not get exposed to chemicals that may cause cancer," said lead author of the study, Robin Dodson, ScD, a scientist with Silent Spring Institute, a nonprofit research group. "Some flame retardants have been targeted for phase out, but unfortunately there are others that have largely been under the radar."

The researchers tested the urine samples of Californians for biomarkers of six specific toxic flame retardants (phosphates) and discovered that these Americans had all six chemicals present. The researchers noted that one chemical, TCEP [tris-(2-chloroethyl) phosphate] that was never identified in humans before showed up in 75 percent of the participants' urine samples.

TCEP is a carcinogen that can disrupt the nervous and reproductive systems. The chemical can be found in polyurethane foam, plastics, polyester resins and textiles. The researchers also identified another carcinogenic chemical known as TDCIPP (chlorinated "tris").

"It is hard to believe that a metabolite of chlorinated tris, the same flame retardant we helped remove from baby pajamas in the 1970s, was found in almost all of the study participants," Arlene Blum, PhD, Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute and Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley, said according to the press release. "It is such good news that, thanks to the new flammability standard, such harmful chemicals are no longer needed in our furniture."

The team also found that residents with the highest levels of TCEP and TDCIPP in their urine lived in homes that had respective chemical in dust, which suggests that the home and the furniture in it are exposing people to toxic flame retardants.

"It has been proven that flame retardants do not provide the level of protection necessary to save lives and property. We have known how toxic these chemicals are for decades and yet they are still being used," Tony Stefani, President of the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation, said. "It disturbs me that Californians have cancer-causing flame retardants in their bodies. Another recent study showed San Francisco firefighters had higher flame retardant levels in their blood than the general population of California. We feel that these chemicals are a very large piece of a toxic, complex chemical puzzle we encounter when fighting a fire."

The study was published in the journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

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