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The Toxic Health Effects Of Fire & Flame Retardants

5 December 2019

Today’s Health Bunker article is about ‘flame retardant’ health effects when used in consumer products. As always we will use the mainstream science studies available and ask are toxic flame retardants safe? We look into flame retardant chemical ingredients, and what illnesses are linked to exposure to flame retardants?

According to the US, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “Flame retardants are found in a range of plastic, textile and foam products. Some examples are electronic appliances, furniture, automotive and aviation components, wire and cable, carpets, and building materials such as insulation and roofing. Flame retardant chemicals may be released from these articles”.

Fire and Flame retardants are added to other products like clothing, toys, curtains, carpets, furnishings, wood flooring, blinds or wallpaper and bed linen. These chemicals have been found to migrate from product to dust levels then people. Flame retardants are associated with all kinds of illnesses.

From 1980 to 2007 the decrease in cigarette smoking correlated with the lowering of house fires, rather than the use of flame retardants, and I’m sure if we put into these figures reduced usage of coal fires and better overall use of fire alarms this will also lower the UK deaths from house fire even further.

Sold to us all as a fire safety requirement, but do they actually do work and do we still need them?

Are There Different Types Of Flame Retardants?

From TVs to mattresses even medical devices, baby products and children’s toys we are literally surrounded by these chemicals. There are literally hundreds of different Fire/Flame Retardants. Here are some provided by National Institute of Health;

They are linked to endocrine disruption.

  •  Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) 
    Studies have shown that PBDEs can act as endocrine disruptors (hormone change), liver, thyroid and neurodevelopmental dysfunctions and can lower birth weight/lengths.

 

  • Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) Retardants
    Found in computers, textiles and wallpapers. Endocrine disruptor and cancers.

 

  • Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD)
    Used mainly in foam building materials, HBCDs have been found in food products. Can cause irritation of the respiratory tract, skin irritation and gestational issues, indications of neurological effects.

 

  • Firemaster 550 
    Used to put out forest fires, and ‘Firemaster 550’ is dropped from planes. Endocrine effects, metabolic effects, cardiovascular problems and early onset puberty.

 

  • Chlorinated Tris (TDCPP
    Found in baby products like pillows, changing tables, car seats, and high chairs. TDCPP has been listed as a known carcinogen in California and is known to cause DNA mutations, endocrine disruption, increase cancer rates, negative reproductive effects.

In general, flame retardants are grouped together based on ingredients like bromine, chlorine, phosphorus, nitrogen, metals, and boron.

Mainstream Studies: What Are The Effects Of Flame Retardants In The Body?

Brominated Flame Retardant Exposure

On the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, there is an abstract description of HEALTH EFFECTS OF BROMINATED FLAME RETARDANTS (BFRS)’. This was part of a 2007 meeting in Japan. 

Here’s a snapshot;

‘TBBPA is relatively less persistent and bioaccumulative than most of the others, not acutely toxic, but does have the potential to cause endocrine disruption. HBCD is persistent, bioaccumulative, induces enzymes, and alters thyroid homeostasis, among other responses’.

‘Deca can cause cancer and developmental effects’.

Study of Firemaster 550 (2012)

Researchers from Duke University in North Carolina USA found that ‘Firemaster 550’ is an endocrine disruptor, that causes extreme weight gain, early onset of puberty and cardiovascular health problems.

NTP Studies;

In 2015 the National Toxicology Program (NTP) delivered the results from studies with mice exposed to flame retardants using  DE-71 otherwise known as Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs). Their findings showed DE-71 to be a carcinogen causing liver tumours mainly. They also found that DE-71 caused a variety of on-neoplastic lesions which are cancerous and precancerous growths and abnormal cell growth in the liver and thyroids.

National Institute of Health (NIH)

Animal studies have shown that long term exposure to flame retardants can lead to cancer. Researchers are also beginning to look at potential associations between flame retardants and other health issues.

Brominated Flame Retardant Exposure, Overall General Health Issues include;

  • Endocrine Disruption
  • Thyroid Disruption
  • Impacts on the Immune System
  • Reproductive Toxicity
  • Cancers
  • Adverse Effects on fetal and child development
  • Neurological Development

Do Flame Retardants Off Gas?

‘Off-Gassing’

Flame Retardants will breakdown and toxic vapours will leech in your home environment. From wood flooring or carpets, curtains or blinds, TVs and Computers, furniture and mattresses. In fact, most of your house will belch invisible gasses 24 hours a day, every day for the rest of your lives. You, your children, visitors and pets will breathe these poisons into your lungs and around your body.

There are no time limits it is constant.

‘Off Dusting’

Microscopic particles break off furniture or bits of fluff from carpets, nanoparticles of fire retardant dust will enter your body, from food, hand to mouth contact is a big culprit. This will contaminate, kids, family pets and friends alike.

Prof. Guillermo Rein, a professor of Fire Science at the Imperial College London said in a BBC interview in 2017 and I quote;

‘Your favourite sofa could be the most dangerous object in your house’.

Terry Edge was the civil servant responsible for reviewing the fire retardant regulations started his job in the 2000s he said;

“I would have said these are the most stringent fire safety domestic furniture regulations in the world – a great success”

Today Mr Edge is campaigning against them.

There is no solid evidence that flame retardants only marginally slow down the spread of fire, but they definitely make the fire more toxic.

The Grenfell Tower Disaster.

According to The Guardian, samples of soil up to 50m from the tower contained high levels of ‘phosphorus flame retardants’. Which Prof Anna Stec claims are cancer-causing and damaging to the nervous system. In fact, these toxic chemicals fell more than 150m from the Tower, leaving a huge contaminated area.

Health Bunker

So what can we do to clean up our home environments? Air Purification with Hepa filters is one answer, taking antioxidants like Vitamin C will help as well as eating a healthy diet. Saunas especially Far Infrared or Ozone Saunas help eliminate the chemicals from the body. But sadly nothing is 100%.

The same chemical companies supply the companies that make these toxic retardants. The industry is worth billions of dollars globally and growing and apparently is tightly regulated. But it’s another one of those products that either cause or has a hand in causing, all of the diseases we see in blighting the modern world. 

The big question is this. How on earth did we get to a place where the thing that’s supposed to save us is probably harming or even killing us?

The elephant in the room is, WHY is it even allowed to happen?

Eat Well. Be Well.

Dom and Nic
Health Bunker
It’s Your Life. Own it!

*Disclaimer – Please note, we are not Doctors or trained medical professionals. We are not giving medical advice. Check with your Doctor or health practitioner before trying anything.

 

References

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-06/documents/flameretardant_consumerfactsheet.pdf
https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_record_Report.cfm?Lab=NHEERL&dirEntryId=170505
.GOV
https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/fire-statistics
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/650869/focus-trends-fires-fatalities-oct17.pdf
Research Gate
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288833921_British_Furniture_Fire_Regulations_Do_the_Benefits_Justify_the_Health_and_Environmental_Risks
NIH – National Institute of Health
https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/flame_retardants_508.pdf
https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/flame_retardants/index.cfm
https://factor.niehs.nih.gov/2015/8/science-flameretardant/index.htm
National Toxicology Program
https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/
Wiki
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flame_retardant
Huff Post
https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/these-are-the-gnarly-chemicals-in-the-cheap-clothes-we-buy_us_57d6e494e4b03d2d459b92ff
Polymer Solutions
https://www.polymersolutions.com/blog/major-categories-flame-retardants/
Consumer Product Safety Commission
https://www.cpsc.gov/
Health Science Environment
https://www.healthandenvironment.org/environmental-health/environmental-risks/chemical-environment-overview/flame-retardants
Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/may/19/flame-retardant-chemicals-tvs-electronics-hazard
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/24/flame-retardants-everyday-products-toxics-guide
Independent
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/toxic-chemicals-flame-retardant-food-packaging-plastics-cancer-mps-environment-government-a9005931.html
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/28/grenfell-toxic-contamination-found-in-nearby-homes-and-soil
Duke
https://news.ncsu.edu/2012/10/wms-patisaul-firemaster/
EarthJustice
https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2017/u-s-consumer-product-safety-commission-to-protect-consumers-firefighters-from-hazardous-flame-retardant
BBC
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42343237
ScienceDirect environmental health sciences
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653519305995
Flammability Standards
https://www.camirafabrics.com/getmedia/0b8c2d24-9681-4e16-ae5d-d801cbf1b268/WEB_A4-Flammability-Guide-0618

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