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Carcinogenic Flame Retardant Commonly Used in Couches

Last Updated: November 29, 2012.

The majority of residential couches contain chemical flame retardants, some of which are suspected carcinogens, according to a study published online Nov. 28 in Environmental Science & Technology.

THURSDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The majority of residential couches contain chemical flame retardants, some of which are suspected carcinogens, according to a study published online Nov. 28 in Environmental Science & Technology.

Heather M. Stapleton, Ph.D., from Duke University in Durham, N.C., and colleagues examined the use of flame retardants in couches by analyzing 102 samples of polyurethane foam from residential couches purchased in the United States between 1985 and 2010.

In 85 percent of the couches, the researchers detected chemical flame retardants. In the 41 samples purchased before 2005, the most common flame retardant, detected in 39 percent of samples, was polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) associated with the PentaBDE mixture including BDEs 47, 99, and 100. Tris(1,3-dichloroisopropyl) phosphate (TDCPP), a suspected human carcinogen, was detected in 24 percent of samples. Of the 61 samples purchased in 2005 or later, 52 percent contained TDCPP. The use of TDCPP increased significantly following the phase-out of PentaBDE in 2005. There was a higher prevalence of flame retardants and PentaBDE in couches bought in California (P = 0.054), with a greater difference observed after 2005.

"Our current study suggests that approximately 50 percent of the residential couches in use by average Americans are treated with TDCPP, indicating that a large percentage of the population may have increased cancer risks due to exposure to TDCPP-treated furniture," the authors write. "Future studies evaluating human exposure, particularly children's exposure, to these mixtures of flame retardants in indoor environments are therefore also warranted."

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