Newer electronic devices, carpeted floors and more frequent vacuuming and dusting appear to be associated with lower levels of flame retardant chemicals found in house dust

In December 2018 researchers from The Netherlands published the results of their study to identify factors in the home environment that are associated with levels of fire retardant chemicals in house dust. The researchers stated that products such as furniture foam and electronic device casings are treated with flame retardant chemicals to prevent the spread of fire. Many flame retardant chemicals are able to leach out of a product and end up in house dust, which can then be taken up by humans through inhalation, ingestion or dermal adsorption. A total of 50 households were included in the study. Information on house dust and on a wide range of electronics, including age and use, interior decoration and cleaning patterns were collected and assessed. Results showed that decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209) and several organophosphate flame retardants were found in house dust ranging from 58-94%. Age, hours of operation and use of the standby function of electronic devices were all found to affect the level of flame retardant chemicals in the house dust, eg one electronic device purchased before 2008 was seen to significantly increase the level of BDE-209 in house dust by 66%. In addition, house dust from homes with carpeted floors was significantly associated with a 70-80% lower level of several flame retardant chemicals compared to homes with smooth floors (eg laminate). Less frequent vacuum cleaning and dusting were also significantly associated with a 41-88% higher level of several flame retardant chemicals in house dust. These associations suggest that actions such as frequent vacuum cleaning and dusting as well as different FR regulations for electronic devices affect indoor exposure levels.

Sugeng EJ et al. Electronics, interior decoration and cleaning patterns affect flame retardant levels in the dust from Dutch residences. Sci Total Environ. 2018 Dec 15;645:1144-1152.

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