Blood Levels Of Flame Retardants Correlate With House Dust Exposure

For this post put on your white lab coat. That way it's easier to say polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardant, a bioaccumulative, slow-to-break-down substance, concentrations of which, in human blood, have been found to correlate with concentrations of those same PDBE's in house dust. This is very important information for all TreeHugger readers. If there's a lot of PDBEs in you, or in your kids, odds are it happened from breathing and touching the dust in your house. How did it get into the house dust? That's exactly the question researchers are trying find a precise answer to. As reported in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, "New research published today [January 17, 2007] on ES&T;’s Research ASAP website is the first to definitively link the PBDE concentrations found in people with the quantities of the persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) contaminants in dust from their homes. When considered in tandem with the U.S. EPA’s new assessments of PBDEs and data on the high concentrations of the contaminants in the dust of some U.S. homes, the findings suggest that children could be exposed to levels that put them at risk of developing neurological problems". See our unscientific technical and marketing analysis below the fold.ES&T; summarizes the exposure possibilities this way: "What the new research does not show is the source of the PBDEs found in the dust. Webster's questionnaire included detailed questions about potential sources of PBDEs, such as electronics, and furniture likely to contain foam-padding. He says he and his colleagues were "surprised . . . that we couldn't find any relationship based on what we know about how PBDEs are used in household products.""

Not being bound by the standards of real science, and thus not needing any real data to make our point, we're going out on a limb here (hey, we might qualify for a job on cable news). There's not enough surface area of PDBE containing plastic exposed to the atmosphere on home electronic devices to give you an every day snoot full of the nasty dust. Moreover, the engineering plastics that make up a PC or TV shell remain non-friable (no crumbling) for many years. Conversely, anyone who has taken down an old drape or unzipped an old foam padded cushion has experienced the dust that wafts up in that friable state. There's no need to wait for the corroborating studies before you reduce the PDBE exposures for you and your family.

You got your bamboo textiles, and you got your hemp and your basic jute and your organic woolens and cotton choices for decor items too. What else do you need to know? Knock off the petro-fabrics already. It's better for the climate change thing and better for your kids especially.

Regretably, there's one topic we're forced leave hanging. On TreeHugger we often sing the praises of "repositioned" materials or re-used articles. Those often include things made of old petro-textiles. Thinking some about this new study, that repositioning thing might not be such a good idea. Guess we'll have to wait for the "more data" after all.

Oh...and one more thing. Here is a picture of some foam cushions taken out from old car seats. Americans (the ones with the highest blood levels of PDBE's in the world) also spend more time in their cars than anyone else. You get the picture. One more reason to ride a bike.

Top image credit: Roy Harrington Gallery

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