We are grateful to The Cancer Prevention Society UK for the information below, with updated scientific research into the effects of flame retardant chemicals.
Effects of flame retardants reported in the scientific literature
Evidence that flame retardants cause harm comes from assays (in vitro), animal (in vivo) and human studies. Although the PBDE flame retardants have largely been phased out, they are still present in products that are in use. PBDEs have been linked to endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity, developmental, behavioural and learning defects, reproductive impacts and cancer (Dodson 2012, Dishaw 2014, Drage 2019, Yanagisawa 2019, Luan 2019, Li J 2020, Ji F 2020).
PBDEs have been replaced by other brominated flame retardants (BFRs), one with a remarkably similar structure - DBDPE, and organophosphorus flame retardants (OPFRs), some chlorinated ( e.g. TCPP, TDCPP, TCEP) and others not (e.g. TPhP, TBOEP, TEP, TBP).
Developmental, behavioural and neurotoxic effects of BFRs and OPFRs have been reported in many studies (Hutter 2013, Jarema 2015, Behl 2015, Wang Q 2015, Ryan 2016, Tao 2016, , Sun 2016, Liu Y 2017, Slotkin 2017, Baldwin 2017, Lipscomb 2017, Rock 2018, Wang X 2019, Zhang S 2019, Castorina 2017, Doherty 2019, Rock 2019, Gillera 2019, Liu F 2020, Hanas 2020, Yan H 2019, Li R 2020, Zhong 2020, Peng W 2020).
Endocrine disrupting effects of flame retardants include effects on: sex and thyroid hormones, carbohydrate & lipid metabolism, diabetes risk, adipogenesis, obesity, reproduction, and ano-genital distance (Behl 2015, Wang Q 2015, Ma 2015, Tao 2016, Shang 2016, Du 2016, Krivoshiev 2016, Kwon 2016, Kademoglou 2017, Liu 2017, Tung 2017, Carrignan 2017, Messerlin 2018, Wang D 2018 & 2019, Yan 2018, Chappell 2018, Chen X 2018, Zeng 2018, Kollitz 2018, Chen T 2019, Doherty 2019, Li 2019, Huang 2019, Liu 2019, Marteinson 2019, Wang S 2019, Wang X 2019, Guigueno 2019, Ongono 2019, Hao 2019, Luo 2020, Xie 2020).
Some OPFRs are suspected to be carcinogenic (Veen & Boer 2012, Wei 2015). TDCIPP is listed as a known carcinogen by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (Ma 2019). In the EU, restrictions on TDCIPP and TCPP have been issued based on toxicological concerns related to their carcinogenic potency (Kademoglou 2017). Median concentrations of TCPP in all UK microenvironments exceeded those reported elsewhere in the world (Brommer 2016). Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), a widely used flame retardant, has been reported to cause uterine tumours in rats (Dunnick 2015).Studies also report DNA damage or DNA methylation effects (An 2016, Bukowski 2019, Yuan 2019).
Cardiotoxicity and cardiac abnormalities have been reported in different in vitro and in vivo studies with one calling ‘for a greater attention to the health risk of foetus in pregnant women exposed to such OPFRs’ (Mcgee 2013, Gerlach, 2014, Du 2015, Haggard 2017, Sirenko 2017, Mitchell 2018, Alzualde 2018).
Hepatoxicity has been reported for both BFRs and OPRS including inflammation, apoptosis, changes in liver metabolism and gene expression and possibly hepatocellular carcinoma (Chignell 2008, Springer 2012, Morris 2014, Sun RB 2014, Du 2016, Zhang W 2016, Liu C 2016, Pereira 2017, Ren 2017, Zhou 2017, Alzualde 2018, Al-Salem 2019, Phillips 2019, Sun Y 2020)
Other studies, but fewer in number. have reported hearing, corneal cell damage, allergic, immune and kidney effects (Park 2016, Xiang 2017, Araki 2014 & 2018, Ait Bamai 2019, Wang X 2018 & 2019, Elliott 1982, Fukowa 1987 and Kang 2019).
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us to wash our hands regularly and well to avoid getting ill. The results of this study suggest that frequent handwashing can also reduce our exposure to harmful flame retardants.
"Fire safety can be achieved by innovative product design and materials instead of the use of toxic chemicals that can remain in our homes--and in us--for years to come." said Arlene Blum, Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute