advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Are Flame Retardants Toxic?

I've been hearing bad things about the health effects of flame retardants. Are these chemicals really toxic?

A
Answer (Published 10/9/2014)

Originally published June 8, 2012. Updated October 9, 2014.

Flame retardants do appear to present a threat to health, and may potentially do more harm than good in a fire. A British study presented at the March 2012 national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) showed that flame retardants increase the danger of invisible toxic gases, the leading cause of death in fires. The study found that today’s most widely used products contain the hazardous chemical element bromine, and that they actually increase amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide released during fires.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Your Whole Body - Foods, herbs and drugs can all interact, sometimes in unexpected ways. Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor takes known interactions into account when developing nutritional supplement recommendations, to help safeguard against adverse effects. Learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor recommendation today.

As for effects on human health even when there is no fire, a 2014 study conducted by the nonprofit, Washington D.C.-based Environmental Working Group and researchers at Duke University found evidence of exposure to TDCIPP, a cancer-causing flame retardant, in the bodies of all 22 mothers and 26 children tested. In the children, the average concentration of a chemical biomarker remaining after the breakdown of TDCIPP was nearly five times more than the average concentration in the mothers.

Young children are particularly susceptible to the toxicity of flame retardant chemicals. They can ingest significantly more of these chemicals than adults because they crawl around on floors, then put their hands and other objects into their mouths.

What’s more, flame retardants known collectively as "Tris" are used in baby products, furniture, automotive foam cushioning, strollers, nursing pillows, televisions, computers, adhesives, upholstery, carpet backing, rubber, plastics, paints, and varnishes. They have been linked to cancer and can harm the liver, kidney, brain, and testes. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission has classified one of the chemicals in this group, TDCP - Tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl phosphate) - as a probable human carcinogen; another, TCEP - Tris (2-chloroethyl phosphate) - has been shown to cause neurological and reproductive harm in laboratory animals as well as cancer. TDCP and TCEP have been found in drinking water and in water samples from streams throughout the U.S.

Here are some other recent findings:

  • Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found that each 10-fold increase in levels of various brominated flame retardants in an expectant mother's blood was associated with a 4.1 ounce drop in her baby's birth weight.
  • BVO (brominated vegetable oil) is a flame retardant that is also used in sodas to help dissolve its colors and flavors, and to prolong shelf life. The compound is banned in food and drinks throughout Europe and in Japan but has been used for years in citrus-flavored sodas in the U.S. In response to consumer pressure, both Coca-Cola and Pepsico have announced that they are removing BVO from all their drinks. The FDA had limited amounts to 15 parts per million, but the compound accumulates in the heart, liver and fat tissue and has been linked to memory loss and skin and nerve problems in people who have consumed excessive amounts (more than two liters a day).
  • Fire retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs are being phased out because they persist and accumulate in the environment, have been found to be toxic to humans, and are associated with neurodevelopmental problems in children and altered thyroid function in pregnant women. According to the EWG-Duke study, PBDE replacements, TDCIPP and Firemaster® 550, have been linked with hormone level changes and decreased semen quality in men that might affect fertility.

The study authors called for a federal government ban on use of fire retardant chemicals in products intended for babies and children, a requirement that furniture manufacturers label their products and disclose which specific fire retardant chemicals are present, and reform of federal policies requiring toxicity testing before chemicals are sold in the U.S.

I support these efforts and encourage consumers to make their concerns known.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Source:
"No Escape: Tests Find Toxic Fire Retardants in Mothers – and Even More in Toddlers," Environmental Working Group, Duke University, http://www.ewg.org/research/flame-retardants-2014, accessed August 7, 2014.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here