Flame retardants (FR) are chemicals that are intentionally introduced (regulatory obligation) or not into a large number of consumer products to limit their flammability. They are strongly suspected of being reprotoxic and involved in the worrying increase in fertility problems.
In May 2019, the YOOTEST team addressed this subject in an article entitled "Fertility problems, are you a victim of flame retardants" which we invite you to read.
This article presented the weight of the flame retardant industry, the effects of FR on human health and in particular their reprotoxic effects on male and female fertility. A list of the main FR was presented with information on their uses and specific health effects.
Despite its small size, this article was a summary of substantial scientific research on the subject and among the sources cited was a publication from the DUKE University (USA) which associated fertility problems with chemicals used in some nail polishes and mattresses.
Without being ill-advised, it is indeed ironic that an attribute of seduction such as nail polish as well as an element of comfort such as a mattress can be the cause of infertility, but this was not the subject.
Parallel to this study, the University of DUKE organized a public campaign to analyze samples of materials present in our daily life to look for the presence of flame retardants. In October 2020, the results of the analysis of 2473 samples were published. Even though the measurement campaign continues and will be enriched in the coming years, the number of samples analyzed is statistically significant and therefore representative of the current situation in the United States.
Which consumer products contain flame retardants?
The samples sent to Duke University were a wide variety of products such as furniture, bedding, automotive equipment ... including children's products.
"Many flame retardants are endocrine disrupters and particularly affect the development of children, with effects observed in adulthood".
Let's start on the positive side: 52% of the samples show no detectable traces of flame retardants. This still means that nearly every second consumer product contains one or more flame retardants!
Approximately 8% of the materials studied contained traces of several flame retardants.
However, some flame retardants such as TBBPA (Terta-Bromo-BisPhenol-A) were not investigated. Therefore the number of products containing flame retardants must actually be higher.
The samples were grouped into ten categories and the statistics speak for themselves and are presented in the graph below:
"Data Source: Duke University"
Carpets very often contain flame retardants, as do children's car seats and furniture. This study shows above all that the sources of pollution by flame retardants are multiple.
-The most frequently studied types of samples were sofas, couches and futons (1010), followed by chairs and armchairs (390), mattresses (260), children's car seats (170) and bedding (160). This gives an indication of the sociology and concerns of the public who participated in this campaign.
What are the flame retardants found in the samples?
Within the 48% of positive samples containing at least one flame retardant, 7 types of flame retardants were found. The distribution of these chemicals is shown in the graph below.
"Data Source: Duke University"
After the ban on PCBs (Poly-Chloro-Biphenyls) and then PBDEs (Poly-Brominated-Diphenyl-Ether) rightly considered as persistent organic pollutants, only PBDEs (penta-BDE) are still detected in products manufactured before their ban.
To replace these toxic and bioaccumulable substances, industry has oriented its choice towards the family of organophosphates, which are today the most widely used flame retardants and the most present in consumer products.
Multiple organophosphorus compounds are used today. Thus, TDCPP (Tri-Di-Chloro-Propyl-Phosphate) and TCPP (Tri-Chloro-Propyl-Phosphate) are most often present and detected in respectively 46% and 18% of samples containing flame retardants.
Preparations marketed under the brand names Firemaster 550, Firemaster 600 and V6 also contain organophosphorus compounds such as :
Tert-butylated triphenyl phosphate (CAS 68937-40-6)
Triphenyl phosphate (CAS 115-86-6)
2,2-bis(chloromethyl)-propane-1,3-diyltetrakis(2-chloroethyl) bisphosphate (CAS 38051-10-4)
Tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP, CAS 115-96-8)
Isopropylated triphenyl phosphate (CAS 68937-41-7)
"Organophosphates are neurotoxic substances".
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Firemaster® 550 and its components isopropylated triphenyl phosphate and triphenyl phosphate enhance adipogenesis and transcriptional activity of peroxisome proliferator activated receptor (Pparγ) on the adipocyte protein 2 (aP2) promoter
Characterization of Individual Isopropylated and tert-Butylated Triarylphosphate (ITP and TBPP) Isomers in Several Commercial Flame Retardant Mixtures and House Dust Standard Reference Material SRM 2585