A recent study looking at the commonly used class of flame retardants known as organophosphate flame retardants has shown an elevated presence of these chemicals in children when compared to their mothers. These flame retardants include TDCP, often referred to as Tris. (TDCP’s chemical designation is Tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) and is also called TDCIPP or TDCPP). TDCP is listed as a known carcinogen by the State of California and has been associated with altered hormone levels and diminished semen quality in men in previous studies.
The study was funded in part by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and conducted by researchers at Duke University and the EWG. Organophosphate flame retardants and components of the flame retardant Firemaster 550 (FM550) are the most commonly detected flame retardants in the polyurethane foam cushioning found in couches and baby products. Previous research on Firemaster 550 (which contains the organophosphate flame retardant TPHP as well as as EH-TBB, another chemical of potential concern) found that perinatal exposure to Firemaster 550 resulted in early puberty, glucose sensitivity, and significant weight gain in rats.
While past research demonstrated a high level of exposure in adults to these commonly used flame retardants, virtually no research existed prior to this study looking at exposure to organophosphate flame retardants in children. Not surprisingly, this new study suggests children are also ubiquitously exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis.
The presence of organophosphate flame retardants were determined through urine samples. Tests looked for associated metabolites, biomarkers left in the urine after the body had metabolized the flame retardants. Because of the presence of organophosphate flame retardants in common household dust, scientists suspected they would find higher levels in children, which the study verified. This higher level was predicted because children tend to have more hand to mouth activity than adults yet lower levels of hand washing.
This study looked at a relatively small sampling: 21 paired mothers and children in New Jersey, with children ranging between one and five years of age. BDCIPP, the biomarker for TDCP, was found in the urine of all of the test subjects but was found 4.9 times greater, on average, in the urine of the children than in their mothers.
While this study largely confirms what researchers already suspected, more research is needed on how this increased exposure may affect the health and development of our youngest citizens, who are regularly being exposed to these chemicals.
To read more about this important study, download the EWG report No Escape on the EWG website.