Study Slams Flame Retardants for Impact on Human Fertility

A recent article on the United Kingdom’s DailyMail website publicized a recent study by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School which implicates organophosphate flame retardants in lower human fertility rates. The methodology and findings of the study appear sound, but the recommendations by the authors are naive and ignore the advances in new flame retardant technology that eliminate these negative impacts while providing fire safety in the home, in hotels and in the workplace.

These findings suggest that exposure to organophosphate flame retardants may be one of many risk factors for lower reproductive success,” said Courtney Carignan, the study’s lead author, formerly a research fellow in Harvard’s Department of Environmental Health, now at Michigan State University. “They also add to the body of evidence indicating a need to reduce the use of these flame retardants and identify safer alternatives.

“Studies have shown that people who wash their hands more frequently have lower levels of these flame retardant chemicals in their bodies. This is because flame retardants used in furniture foam migrate into the air and dust of our indoor environments, and enter our bodies primarily through accidental dust ingestion as small amounts of dust stick to our hands throughout the day.”

It has been know for years that additive, non-reactive flame retardants are environmentally persistent and are released to the environment (including homes and offices) when flexible polyurethane foam reaches the end of its life cycle. These flame retardants have been found in human blood, urine and breast milk for years. This is not news. What IS news is that the “safer alternatives” suggested above do exist at the present moment- research has demonstrated that reactive flame retardants, products which chemically react into the foam structure and are permanently bound provide enhanced fire resistance for PU foam and do not exit the foam at the end of the life cycle. If the deleterious effects on human fertility are because flame retardants used in furniture foam migrate into the air and dust of our indoor environments, and enter our bodies primarily through accidental dust ingestion”, why not eliminate the problem through the use of reactive FRs?

It is not surprising that the DailyMail, a U.K.-based website, raised the alarm on this problem. The United Kingdom has strict regulations on flame retardancy in furniture and bedding known as British Standard 5852. To pass the difficult requirements of BS-5852 in flexible foam, PU foam producers use massive quantities of TCPP, an additive, non-reactive FR and one of the worst FR products for environmental accumulation.

Why does TCPP remain the FR of choice for BS-5852 foams despite the now proven effects on human fertility? You can guess the answer: the newer, safer reactive FRs are more expensive than the cheap TCPP now used. Should all FRs be taken out of PU foam to reduce the health risks? Well, this ignores the reason for FRs in the first place- to render furnishings more fire resistant and save human lives.

Do we need to balance human health with fire safety, and choose the lesser of the two evils? No. The new reactive FR products are readily available, easily processed and require much lower use levels than TCPP to achieve excellent flame retardant results. The industry will change only when the consuming public demands BOTH safer FR alternatives AND increased fire safety. It is possible to “have the cake and eat it too.”

For more information on environmentally acceptable reactive flame retardants, please contact Cellular Technology International at (in Europe, or call +1 800-733-7374.


Read the entire Daily Mail article here:

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