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Flame retardants creating pressure on environment

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016,12:16 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Panaji | An international scientist has expressed concern over people getting increasingly exposed in their houses to flame retardants (FR), which are creating pressure on the environment. The discussion on exposure of FRs suddenly got a different character. Instead of dietary exposure through fish or milk consumption, it is now through uptake via inhalation, dermal or hand-mouth contact, said Jacob de Boer, Professor in Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology at VU (Vrije Universiteit) University, Netherlands.

Flame retardants are compounds added to manufactured materials, such as plastics and textiles, and surface finishes and coatings that inhibit, suppress, or delay the production of flames to prevent the spread of fire. The studies have proved that FRs are creating increasing pressure on global environment, he said. The issue of FRs was extensively deliberated during the fifth international conference on eco-toxicology and environmental sciences held at Kochi from February 15-17.

The scientist said that the uptake (of flame retardant particles) via non-dietary exposure is concerning more for the children. The situation indoors in the homes is even more complex as some of the FRs are also used as plasticisers in polymers or as additive in waxes and consequently contribute even more to the total indoor exposure of humans to chemicals, he said.

The environmental studies on FRs took-off in the late 1990s, he informed. A series of authors pointed to the importance of the indoor environment. Worldwide people tend to spend more time indoors, make more frequent use of electronic equipment such as computers, and live in better insulated houses, he said. The FRs can be released from these equipment and furniture through evaporation (off-gassing) or by wear and tear.