"Alternative Flame Retardants Detected In Outdoor Air"

"Environment: Scientists measure organophosphate flame retardants at higher levels than those of the troublesome compounds they are replacing."

"Manufacturers have used organophosphate esters for more than 40 years as flame retardants in items such as upholstered furniture, electronics, and plastics. The chemicals’ use has increased over the past decade as manufacturers have phased out brominated flame retardants due to environmental and human health concerns. A new study measures organophosphate flame retardants in outdoor air at levels 100 to 1,000 times higher than the brominated flame retardants they are replacing. The study suggests that organophosphate esters, which also have raised health concerns, are more persistent and get transported more easily in the environment than once thought.

In 2004, manufacturers volunteered to find alternatives to flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), following two decades of research linking them to neurological damage and endocrine disruption. Manufacturers replaced them in part with a range of organophosphate esters. Cell-based studies have suggested that some of these compounds could be carcinogenic and neurotoxic. Nevertheless, studies in the 1980s concluded that most of these compounds hydrolyze easily, so researchers thought they would break down in the environment and not pose much harm."

Janet Pelley reports for Chemical & Engineering News October 1, 2013.

Source: C&EN, 10/02/2013