Based in part on the hard work of our coalition this April, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Finland, France, UK, Italy, Sweden, Greece and the Czech Republic rejected yet another "candle" standard which would have led to flame retardant chemicals in the enclosures around televisions without a fire safety benefit. According to our colleagues at the European Environmental Citizens Organisation for Standardisation, ECOS, this "shows the impact that we can have as a civil society, sending a very strong signal to chemical manufacturers."
The Chicago Tribune just published a riveting four-part exposé of the flame retardant industry. After five years of working to reduce the use of toxic and ineffective flame retardants, we have the game changing news that a leading Senator is demanding answers:
New research suggests that chemicals - brominated and chlorinated flame retardants - that are added to upholstered furniture and other household items to stop the spread of flames are increasing emissions of two poisonous gases.
Donna Mensching's informative new study of 72 cats (including my cat Midnight) with abstract below confirmed that domestic cats have high concentrations of the PBDE flame-retardant in their blood. Midnight's blood levels were very high and my house dust at 95mg/g was the highest in this Illinois study.
Donna compared blood levels in healthy and hyperthyroid geriatric cats and found no significant difference. She also found that household dust PBDE levels were significantly higher in homes with hyperthyroid cats.
In a paper for the Journal of the American Medical Association, Philippe Grandjean, et al. found that perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) may reduce children's protection from vaccinations. The study, Serum Vaccine Antibody Concentrations in Children Exposed to Perfluorinated Compounds found that these pervasive compounds are found in Teflon coatings, furniture, stain-resistant carpeting, rain gear, and microwave popcorn bags. They migrate out and end up in household dust, water and food.
Brominated Flame Retardant Chemical in Soft Drinks
The cloudy look to Fanta Orange, Mountain Dew, or Fresca isn't fruit juice but rather brominated vegetable oils (BVOs), first developed as a flame retardant. Used in about 10% of the soft drinks sold in the USA, BVOs break down into brominated fatty acids which bioaccumulate in body fat with a potential for toxicity. In Europe and Japan, BVOs are not permitted in soft drinks and natural alternatives are used.
Do we need these brominated chemicals in our drinks and bodies?
A 5-month investigation by Environmental Health News reveals that the chemical industry spent at least $23.2 million over the past five years to lobby California officials and donate to campaigns in an effort to defeat bills that would have regulated flame retardants. The four top recipients, three Democrats and one Republican, never voted in favor of any of the five bills. During the years of lobbying, the flame retardants have been building up in people's bodies, including breast milk, around the world.
In a paper published on line on May 18, 2011 in Environmental Science & Technology, Heather Stapleton and colleagues found that 80% of baby products tested contained toxic or untested flame retardant chemicals. Foam from 100 changing table pads, nursing pillows, car seats, and other baby products were tested. Here are a few of the findings:
• 36% of the baby products contained the same cancer-causing Tris removed from baby pajamas in 1977
• Levels of Tris were up to 12% of the weight of the foam
• 79% of the products contained toxic or untested flame retardants
This Monday at a hearing of the Senate Business and Professions Committee , eight California Senators – Curren Price, Bill Emerson, Lou Correa, Ed Hernandez, Gloria Negrete McLeod, Juan Vargas, Mimi Walters, and Mark Wyland – vote- “No” to Mark Leno’s SB 147 to give consumers the choice to purchase fire safe furniture without toxic flame retardantds.
Mark Leno introduced the Consumer Choice Fire Safety Act February 1, 2011. This Senate bill, SB147, calls for the development of an alternative furniture flammability standard that will increase fire safety and can be met without flame retardant chemicals.
Scientist Arlene Blum speaks about the connection between plastic pollution and flame retardants.
About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.
Please find below significant research of 2010 linking adverse reproductive, neurological, thyroid, and carcinogenic heath effects with flame retardants used in furniture, baby products, electronics, and buildings.
These findings should help facilitate 2011 changes in policy and practice to reduce the health burden from these chemicals. Please see below for information on how you can support these changes.
I recently met with Paul Anastas who heads EPA's Office of Research and Development and is considered the "Father of Green Chemistry" to suggest research ideas on the impacts of halogenated flame retardants in buildings.
The Green Science Policy Institute has three project updates to share:
(1) We are conducting a new research study on the association between the TB117 label and the flame retardants present in couches. To find out if there are halogenated flame retardants in your couch, please consider joining our Couch Study. Contact Michelle Gabriel for the criteria to join our study. Your donation of a foam sample from your couch will contribute to our efforts to reduce toxics in our homes and bodies.
Two new papers discuss how PBDE congeners can cross blood–placenta and blood–brain barriers, causing subtle changes in some parameters of neurobehavior, changes in circulating thyroid hormone levels, and changes in reproductive endpoints. Some of these effects appear to be irreversible. Please let Rebecca know if you would like a pdf of either of these papers.
1) Kodavanti PRS, Curras-Collazo MC (2010); Neuroendocrine actions of organohalogens: Thyroid hormones, arginine vasopressin, and neuroplasticity, Front. Neuroendocrinol. doi:10.1016/j.yfrne.2010.06.005
Here are a couple current stories on the flame retardants around us:
1. Significant PBDE levels detected in “organic" compost distributed in San Francisco
2. New review of PBDE contamination in birds
1. Dr. Robert Hale has measured an average total of 731 ppb of PBDEs in sewage sludge-derived "organic" compost which the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has distributed to gardeners since 2007.
In a newly published study by Sonya Lunder et al., PBDEs were assessed in blood samples collected from 20 mothers and their children. The sum of PBDEs for children were about 2.8 times higher than for mothers. This research suggests that children’s increased hand-to-mouth activity and exposures from breast milk may result in greater ingestion of PBDEs than adults. Testing mother-child pairs can control for variability between households, diets, and perhaps even genetics.
Below are excerpts from two interesting articles from yesterday:
1. A news article about chlorinated tris flame retardants in Ikea furniture from Slate
2. A press release from a UC Berkeley study showing that pentaBDE, used in furniture and baby product foam, may alter human thyroid function which, in pregnant women, may impact birth outcomes.
Firemaster 550 (FM550,) a mixture of four flame retardants that are either known to be toxic or lack adequate information, continues to be used in furniture and baby products to meet the California furniture flammability standard Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117).
Two of these ingredients were found in seven species in the Arctic according to the report attached, "New brominated flame retardants in Arctic biota".
Our colleague and co-author Susan Shaw of MERI just returned from the Gulf where, accompanied by a London Times crew, she dove in the oil slick. Her informative short op-ed is attached. Please pass this on to your friends, colleagues, and journalists. Gulf Sea Life Fate Worse than Death by Oil
Three new messages with very worrisome news about both increased usage and human toxicity of halogenated flame retardants are below. This is in spite of the recent decaBDE phase out and the Green Science Policy Institute's success in stopping new flammability standards that could have led to billions of pounds of additional BFRs and CFRs.
1. According to the February 1 issue of C&E News, Albermarle's profits rose 377% in 2009 compared to 2008:
From an NPR program discussing flame retardants and neurodevelopmental effects.
"the kids with the highest exposure scored on average about five points lower in IQ than the kids with the lower prenatal exposures."
As predicted by dozens of animal studies, PBDE exposure during human development appears to scramble brain development and reduce IQ just as lead exposure does.
Body burdens of brominated flame retardants and other persistent organo-halogenated compounds and their descriptors in US girls, by Gayle C.Windham et al, published on-line in Environmental Research.
The pdf is attached and a press release follows.