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The extensive use of chemical flame retardants to meet the California Furniture Flammability Standard Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) [1] provides an example of the need for consideration of environmental impacts of fire safety interventions before they are implemented. Flame retardants are currently being used in products with high levels of human exposure without adequate toxicological testing. For example, flame retardants commercially used to meet TB117 have been found to have negative impacts upon human, ani-mal, and environmental health [2] and notably, the TB117 standard has not been shown to have a measura-ble fire safety benefit. Both the unintended adverse impacts and the lack of fire safety benefits of California TB117 are discussed in detail.
Flame Retardants in Furniture Foam: Benefits and Risks
1Fire Science and Technology Inc.
9000 - 300th Place SE, Issaquah WA 98027 USA
2Department of Chemistry
University of California Berkeley
Berkeley CA 94705 USA
3Green Science Policy Institute
1492 Olympus Avenue, Berkeley CA 94708 USA
4National Cancer Institute
National Institutes of Health
Research Triangle Park NC 27709 USA
The extensive use of chemical flame retardants to meet the California Furniture Flammability Standard
Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) [
] provides an example of the need for consideration of environmental
impacts of fire safety interventions before they are implemented. Flame retardants are currently being used
in products with high levels of human exposure without adequate toxicological testing. For example, flame
retardants commercially used to meet TB117 have been found to have negative impacts upon human, ani-
mal, and environmental health [
] and notably, the TB117 standard has not been shown to have a measura-
ble fire safety benefit. Both the unintended adverse impacts and the lack of fire safety benefits of California
TB117 are discussed in detail.
KEYWORDS: flame retardants, halogens, PBDE, flammability.
Flame retardant (FR) additives are commonly used to meet regulatory requirements mandating certain lev-
els of fire safety performance. Even though a wide variety of FR additives have been developed, for most
man-made polymers halogenated FR chemicals have been the most frequently used. This is due to their
cost, availability, and extensive industry experience with this class of additives. Until recent years, only the
potential benefits of their usage have been considered by regulatory bodies and not the potential drawbacks.
For example, after decades of use and hundreds of studies detecting adverse health and environmental con-
sequences, two polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) commercial mixturesPentaBDE and OctaBDE
were banned in 2003 in California and in 2004 in the European Union [3] and voluntarily withdrawn from
production by the sole US manufacturer [
]. These two PBDE mixtures were subsequently listed as persis-
tent organic pollutants (POPs) by the Stockholm Convention [
]. The cause for concern with these and oth-
er PBDEs, their replacements, and other currently used halogenated replacement chemicals is now well
recognized [
The assumption held by much of the public, industry and scientists, is that any hazardous FR additives
would be restricted from use in consumer products. However, in the United States, only chemicals in foods,
drugs, and pesticides are regulated prior to reaching the marketplace. There is no requirement for health
data nor sufficient authority to regulate other chemicals [
].When a number of halogenated flame retardants
received detailed study, they were found to be persistent when introduced into the environment and to have
serious adverse health consequences [2]. In light of these findings, it seems necessary to consider the net
outcome associated with the use of FR agents, instead of only evaluating their effects on the improvement
of fire safety. This could require a complex weighing of alternatives which lack a common basis for com-
parison, e.g., death or injury due to fire, versus damage to the environment or long-term health effects asso-
ciated with direct ingestion, consumption of contaminated foodstuffs, and other modes of transfer. In some
cases, however, such a complex assessment may not be needed. One example would be if there were no fire
safety benefits associated with a particular usage. The use of organohalogen FRs to meet California Furni-
ture Flammability Standard Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117) is examined here as an example of such a
© International Association of Fire Safety Science 2011
The California Furniture Flammability Standard TB117 was implemented in 1975 by the California Bureau
of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (the Bureau). Its avowed
purpose is to reduce fire deaths and injuries associated with upholstered furniture. The standard is a small-
flame ignition standard which requires polyurethane foam in juvenile products and upholstered furniture to
withstand exposure to a small open flame for 12 s [
]. The standard also regulates smolder behavior of
foams and provides fire tests for other, non-foam components. But these aspects are not of relevance to the
present paper, since chemical fire retardants are not added to foams to pass the smolder test, while other
components are either in very limited use or require no treatment, or both. Compliance with the standard is
mandatory for all products sold in California, irrespective of where they are manufactured. Of the 50 US
States, California is the only state which has such a standard. Increasingly many national furniture manu-
facturers are using this standard for all of their furniture sold across North America to avoid maintaining a
double inventory and for defense against fire liability claims. Thus TB117 is becoming a de facto national
standard, with the organohalogen flame retardants typically used to meet it being found in most furniture
and baby products containing polyurethane foam sold in the US and Canada. A small-flame fire standard
such as TB117 would have a fire safety benefit if a positive answer could be obtained to at least one of the
two questions posed below.
Do TB117 Compliant Materials Significantly Reduce the Severity of the Fire?
The severity of a particular fuel package is quantified by its peak heat release rate (peak HRR), measured in
kilowatt units [
]. Babrauskas [
] studied furniture where the peak HRR of identically-constructed furniture
passing TB117 was compared to furniture made with non-fire-retardant (non-FR) foam. The differences
observed between the furniture with non-FR foam and furniture made with foam complying with TB117
were within the normal data scatter from this type of test. In addition, visually the fire development over
the furniture was seen to be identical. Schuhmann and Hartzell [
] also found use of TB117 foam did not
reduce the peak HRR compared to non-FR foam in normal residential furniture construction. On the other
hand, they found advanced foams (of much higher density and with much higher levels of flame retardants
than required by TB117) did show a peak HRR about 42 % lower than for TB117 foams. Similarly
Babrauskas et al. [
] later also compared furniture made with non-FR foam and advanced foam, but not
with TB117 foam. The advanced foam contained three different FR additives and had a density 2.5 times
greater than the non-FR foam. A chair that showed 1200 kW peak HRR when made with non-FR foam
showed a peak HRR value of approximately 50 kW when made with advanced FR foam. The advanced
foam used was costly and not found in residential furniture, but was used to illustrate the performance
achievable by incorporating state-of-the-art technology. The study concluded: ―The average available es-
cape time was more than 15-fold greater for the FR products in the room burn tests,‖ compared to the non-
FR products (113 s versus 1789 s) [12]. This statement has been distorted and improperly cited to imply
that use of TB117 foams can create such a difference [
]. This is incorrect, in that the study did not exam-
ine any TB117 foams but only a costly, state-of-the-art formulation not used in residential furniture. Fur-
thermore, the tests were carried out in fully-furnished rooms where numerous combustibles were burned
and were not tests of upholstered furniture items alone. Finally, while peak HRR is the primary metric of
fire hazard, time to reach peak HRR can be a useful supplemental variable, since it may reflect on the es-
cape time available. The earlier study by Babrauskas [9] presented data showing the time-to-peak for non-
FR and TB117 foams were identical, to within the data scatter of the apparatus. Thus, the answer to the first
question, ―Is the severity of the fire significantly reduced by the use of TB117 foam?‖ is clearly No.
Does TB117 Foam Serve to Prevent Ignitions from Small Flame Sources?
A severe fault of the TB117 test is that the foam alone is exposed to a small burner flame, rather than the
composite piece of furniture. Under such conditions, TB117 foam with 3 to 5 % of FR additive can resist a
small open flame. But actual upholstered furniture always consists of a composite of at least two layers,
with a fabric cover on top of foam. Furthermore, fabrics are thin membranes of about 1 mm that do not
serve as a barrier to the flow of heat from the outside to the foam and it is common for the upholstery fabric
itself to ignite from small flame sources such as a candle or a lighter. Once the fabric is burning, the foam is
presented with a flame challenge which is many times larger than the cigarette lighter flame which may
have originally ignited the fabric. (Note that TB117 does not consider protection from ignition by large
flame sources and that it is well-established that targets which might resist a smaller flame attack may be
© International Association of Fire Safety Science 2011
unable to resist one from a larger flame [
]). It must additionally be noted that (a) the TB117 standard
contains a separate test provision for fabrics. But this is a moot test since the procedure is the same as man-
dated in the Federal CS 191-53 test [
], which all fabrics sold in the US are already required to meet by
the Federal government. (b) While an ostensible, but moot fabric test exists within TB117, the standard
never assesses the behavior of an actual composite, i.e., a fabric on top of a layer of foam. However, the
latter question has been experimentally investigated by two groups. Talley [
] tested 15 different uphol-
stery fabrics, each over non-FR and TB117 foams of matched density (24 kg·m-3). All specimens ignited
except those using one of the 15 fabrics, and for that fabric neither of the foams used led to ignition. Talley
also visually observed flame spread behavior of the specimens that did ignite, and his conclusion was that
―The TB117 foam made no significant, consistent difference in either ignition or flame spread.‖ Talley also
ran additional tests which showed that TB117 foams did not offer any benefit in regards to resisting smol-
dering ignition from cigarettes. In addition, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) con-
ducted laboratory research on actual chairs and also found the test to be ineffective [
]. More broadly, as
part of their regulatory mission, they undertook to determine if adopting of the TB117 standard would like-
ly reduce deaths and injuries due to fire and concluded that ―TB117 component results were not predictive
of full scale performance‖ and that ―TB117…would not, if federally mandated, ensure a substantial reduc-
tion in the risk of small open flame ignition of finished articles of furniture.‖ Thus, the answer to the ques-
tion ―Does TB117 foam serve to prevent ignitions from small flame sources?‖ is also No.
It is important to emphasize that the above findings have not been disputed. There are no published re-
search studies where the answer to either of the two questions is ―Yes.‖ Thus, the evaluation of the fire
safety benefits of TB117 foams is simplethere are no benefitsand a public policy judgment weighing
fire safety gains against health and environmental drawbacks (discussed below) is not required.
From its implementation in the late 1970s until 2004, TB117 was primarily met with the addition of three
to five percent pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE) to the foam in furniture and juvenile products (nurs-
ing pillows, strollers, baby carriers, etc.). PentaBDE is a commercial mixture of several congeners of
polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). Due to its persistence and tendency to bioaccumulate, pentaBDE
has become a global contaminant and the most well studied of the brominated flame retardants.
PentaBDE and the other PBDEs are structurally similar to known human toxicants PBBs, PCBs, dioxins
and furans. In addition to having similar mechanisms of toxicity in animal studies [
], PBDEs similarly
persist and bioaccumulate in humans and animals [
]. In 1999 and 2001, 98 % [
] and 95 % [
], respec-
tively, of the usage of pentaBDE, was in North America, in large part to meet TB117. PentaBDE was
banned in California in 2003 due to its persistence and toxicity; eight other states and the European Union
(EU) followed suit. In 2004, Chemtura, (previously Great Lakes Chemical), the sole US manufacturer, vol-
untarily ceased production. In 2009 pentaBDE was listed as a persistent organic pollutant under the Stock-
holm Convention [
]. However pentaBDE continues to be a global pollutant, moving from reservoirs in
furniture and other products into the biota.
Halogenated flame retardants, including PBDEs, have been associated with cancer, immune and endocrine
disruption, and reproductive and neurodevelopmental effects in humans and a variety of animal species [2].
Effects of PentaBDE on Laboratory Animals
A large body of experimental data, both in vivo and in vitro, shows that pentaBDE can disrupt the endo-
crine system in mammals, birds, and fish, resulting in effects on thyroid, ovarian, and androgen function
]. PentaBDE also disrupts thyroid hormone homeostasis which can cause neurologic impairments,
including a reduction in the IQ of offspring [
Many of these effects result from exposure during prenatal or neonatal development [25,
]. Such effects
include impacts on gene expression of liver enzymes [
] endocrine disruption (altered thyroid hormone
levels) [
], reproductive damage [3133], immunotoxicity [34,35], and neurotoxic effects [36]. Experi-
ments conducted by Eriksson and co-workers in mice developmentally exposed either to penta- or higher
BDEs [3740] during the period of rapid brain growth have shown neurotoxic effects, including impair-
© International Association of Fire Safety Science 2011
ment of spontaneous behavior, cholinergic transmitter susceptibility, and habituation capability. The defi-
cits in learning and memory were observed to persist into adulthood and worsen with age. The develop-
mental effects of PBDEs are exacerbated by co-exposure to PCBs in rats [41].
As an endocrine disruptor, pentaBDE exposure results in increased lypolysis and reduced insulin-
stimulated metabolism in rat adipocytes [42], effects which have been associated with obesity, insulin re-
sistance, and Type 2 diabetes. PentaBDE is also anti-androgenic [43,44].
Exposure and Health Impacts of PentaBDE on Humans
A wide range of adverse effects in humans associated with pentaBDE exposure include developmental,
endocrine, thyroid, reproductive and neurological effects, as well as diabetes [25,45,46].
Halogenated flame retardants such as pentaBDE and its replacements are a predominant class of toxic chemi-
cals found in human biomonitoring studies [47]. The importance of house dust as a major exposure route for
pentaBDE in humans has been studied [49,51]. Human external exposure from dust, diet, and air and the re-
sulting internal exposure to pentaBDE has been recently reviewed [48,49]. About 20 % of exposure to PBDEs
in Americans is currently estimated to derive from diet, with the highest exposure from butter, seafood, and
meat [50]. The remaining 80 % of exposure is assumed to come mainly from the ingestion and inhalation of
PBDE-contaminated dust [51].
The PBDE concentrations in the North American general population are 10 to 40-times higher than the con-
centrations reported for populations in Europe and other parts of the world [5255]. A positive correlation
between pentaBDE concentrations in house dust and breast milk has been shown [56]. In California, popula-
tions have been shown to be disproportionately exposed to pentaBDE, likely due to the state’s fire regulation
TB117 that has led to high usage of halogenated flame retardants in furniture and baby products [47]. A re-
cent study found that body burden levels in California children are two to nine times higher than in similar-
aged children across the US, and four to nine times higher than children in Mexico, and up to one hundred
times higher than those in children of similar ages in Europe [57].
Developmental Effects
Exposure to pentaBDE in umbilical cord blood is associated with adverse neurodevelopmental effects in
children [58]. Children in the highest 20 % of the exposure distribution showed lower IQ performance
scores (ranging from 5 to 8 points lower) at all ages [58]. In the Netherlands, prenatal exposure to pentaP-
BDE was associated with significant adverse effects on motor, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes in the
children [59]. PentaBDE congeners appear to affect the development of fetal human neural progenitor cells
via endocrine disruption of cellular thyroid hormone signaling [60]. These studies are the first to suggest a
biological mechanism for in vivo studies reporting behavioral and IQ effects after developmental exposures.
In addition to their prenatal exposures, after birth young children are exposed at higher levels than adults
from breast milk and ingestion of dust due to hand-to-mouth contact [61,62]. It has been estimated that a
breastfed infant in the US would be exposed to 1500 ng/day of PBDEs [63]. Accordingly, the highest se-
rum levels of PBDEs are found in infants and toddlers, most vulnerable to developmental toxics [64,65].
Reproductive Effects
Harley et al. reported an association between pentaBDE exposure and reduced fertility in women from a pre-
dominantly Mexican-immigrant community in California [46]. Increasing serum levels of pentaBDE were
significantly associated with longer time to pregnancy. Prenatal exposure of the infants of these women was
associated with low birth weight, altered cognitive behavior, and significantly reduced plasma levels of thy-
roid stimulating hormone (TSH) [46]. Another study reported that elevated levels of pentaBDE in breast milk
of pregnant Taiwanese women were associated with adverse birth outcomes including decreased weight,
length, and chest circumference of their infants [66]. The effects were observed at levels lower than the aver-
age pentaBDE levels in the adult US population.
Elevated pentaBDE levels in breast milk were correlated with cryptorchidism (undescended testicles) in the
sons of mother-son pairs studied in Denmark and Finland [67]. The levels associated with cryptorchidism
were also positively correlated with serum lutenizing hormone (LH) concentrations in the infants, which
© International Association of Fire Safety Science 2011
suggested a possible compensatory mechanism to achieve normal testosterone levels. This observation is
consistent with the anti-androgenic effects of PBDEs observed in experimental animals. A pilot study con-
ducted by Japanese researchers reported that elevated blood levels of BDE-153 were correlated with de-
creased sperm count and decreased testes size [68].
A recent study in the US reported a relationship between altered hormone levels in men and pentaBDE levels
in house dust [69]. The findings included significant inverse associations between PBDEs in house dust and
serum concentrations of the free androgen index, LH, and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and positive
associations between pentaBDE and sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and free T4.
Thyroid Effects
Turyk et al. reported an association between pentaBDE and elevated T4 levels and thyroglobulin antibodies
in the blood of adult male consumers of Great Lakes sport fish [70]. The effects were observed at pentaB-
DE levels comparable to those found in the general US population and were independent of PCB exposure
and sport fish consumption. A recent study of Inuit adults [71] reported that plasma concentrations of BDE-
47 were related to increasing total T3 levels.
Endocrine Disruption
As endocrine-disruptors, some PBDEs are reported to cause disturbances in glucose and lipid metabolism
in rat adipose tissue, which is characteristic of metabolic obesity and Type 2 diabetes [42], but few studies
have examined the relationships between PBDEs and diabetes in humans. Turyk et al. reported a non-
significant association between PBDE exposure and diabetes in Great Lakes sport fish consumers with hy-
pothyroid disease [72,70]. A recent study in US adults examined the association between diabetes and
PBDEs [73]. The serum concentrations of the hexa-BDE congener -153 were significantly related to meta-
bolic syndrome and diabetes prevalence at background concentrations, suggesting that PBDEs may con-
tribute to diabetes in the general population.
Carcinogenic Effects
The carcinogenic potential of PBDEs has not yet been adequately addressed in animal or human studies.
Part of the observed increase in thyroid cancer rates in the U.S. is hypothesized to be related to the increas-
ing population exposure to pentaBDE and other thyroid hormone disrupting compounds [28]. A study by
Hardell et al. [74] reported an association between BDE-47 concentrations and an increased risk for non-
Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). In the highest risk/highest exposure group, BDE-47 was significantly corre-
lated with elevated titers to Epstein Barr IgG, a herpes virus that associated with certain subgroups of NHL.
Effects of PentaBDE on Wildlife
Because of the usage of pentaBDE in North America to comply with TB117, the levels found in wildlife
are increasing in a variety of species of fish, birds, and marine mammals as well as humans [7578].
Recent studies have shown that PBDE exposure may affect thyroid hormone homeostasis, sperm produc-
tion, disease resistance and neurodevelopment in fish [34,79]. Plasma T4 levels were significantly reduced
in juvenile lake trout exposed to 13 PBDE congeners at levels somewhat higher than those found in the
environment [80]. In male fathead minnows, repeated oral exposure to BDE-47 reduced sperm production
[81]. Low-dose embryonic exposure of killifish to a pentaBDE mixture resulted in neuro-behavioral effects
and a subtle developmental asymmetry with respect to tail curvature direction, with a J-shaped dose-
response curve suggestive of thyroid hormone disruption [82]. Similarly, exposure of zebrafish embryos to
high doses of BDE-47 resulted in developmental effects, including morphological, cardiac, and neural defi-
cits that impaired later survivorship in the fish larvae [83]. Chronic exposure of juvenile zebrafish to eco-
logically relevant levels of BDE-47 resulted in altered locomotion behavior [79]. A recent study showed
that dietary exposure of juvenile Chinook salmon to environmentally relevant concentrations of PBDEs
increased susceptibility to pathogenic micro-organisms [34].
PBDEs are detected at high concentrations in birds of prey, such as peregrine falcons and common kestrels.
Recent studies have shown PBDE-related endocrine-disrupting and reproductive effects at environmentally
© International Association of Fire Safety Science 2011
relevant concentrations. In captive American kestrels, Fernie et al. [84] reported decreased plasma T4 and
vitamin A levels, as well as indications of oxidative stress in kestrels dosed with environmentally relevant
levels of the pentaBDE mixture DE-71. DE-71 exposure also had a negative impact on the timing and fre-
quency of courtship [85]. Exposure to DE-71 resulted in delayed egg laying, reduced egg size, eggshell
thinning, and reduced fertility and reproductive success in kestrels and falcons [86,87]. Fernie et al. [86]
concluded that these changes in the reproductive success of captive kestrels, particularly eggshell thinning,
may partially explain the decline of American kestrels across North America. McKernan et al. [88] reported
decreased pipping and hatching success in American kestrel embryos following the air cell injection of DE-
71. Similarly, Johansson et al. [86] reported a negative relationship between PBDEs and reproductive suc-
cess in peregrine falcons from Sweden. PBDE concentrations in eggs were negatively related to the average
number of young produced from individual breeding females over a 27 year period. Van den Steen et al.
[89] observed negative effects of PBDEs on reproductive performance in European starlings. A field study
in the US [90] reported a negative relationship between reproductive performance and PBDEs in eggs of
wild ospreys at two locations in the highly contaminated Columbia River valley of Oregon and Washing-
ton. North American osprey populations may be at risk for contaminant-induced reproductive impairment.
Marine mammals
Marine mammals accumulate extremely high concentrations of pentaBDE and other persistent organic pol-
lutants through feeding on contaminated prey. Adult animals are exposed through the consumption of con-
taminated fish and young animals are exposed to PBDEs in utero and in breast milk. Marine mammals
from the California coast contain the highest reported pentaBDE levels on record. These include adult male
sea lions [91] and transient killer whales off the California coast, as well as in resident killer whales from
the Puget Sound-Strait of Georgia Basin [92,93]. Along the US Atlantic coast, relatively high pentaBDE
concentrations were reported in young harbor seals [94] and in juvenile bottlenose dolphins [95].
Studies have shown that co-exposure to pentaBDE and PCBs is associated with thyroid hormone alterations
in gray seals [96] and harbor seals [97], and with thymic atrophy and splenic depletion in harbor porpoises
from the North and Baltic Seas [98]. A study of infectious diseases in California sea otters co-exposed to
PCBs and pentaBDE also suggested possible synergistic interactions between these contaminant groups
[99]. However, a recent study reported that in grey seals, levels of PBDEs alone significantly reduced the
probability of first year survival [100].
After pentaBDE was phased out in 2004, a major replacement used for TB117 compliance was Firemaster
550, also produced by Chemtura, a mixture of four flame retardant chemicals whose composition was a
trade secret. In 2004, the EPA Design for the Environment predicted reproductive, neurological, and devel-
opmental toxicity and persistent degradation products for the brominated components of Firemaster 550
[101]. In 2005, Chemtura agreed to conduct reproductive and developmental toxicity and migration studies
by January 2009. Data provided by Chemtura in November 2008 have recently been evaluated by the EPA.
Firemaster 550 components include: (1) triphenyl phosphate which is known to be eco-toxic, (2) Triaryl
phosphate isopropylated which is a probable reproductive toxin, (3) Bis (2-ethylhexyl) tetrabromophthalate,
and (4) 2-ethylhexyl-2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate [102]. The brominated components have been found in
dust [102], sewage sludge [103], marine mammals [104], and seven species in the Arctic [105]. Firemaster
600, described by Chemtura as having a trade-secret composition, is another pentaBDE replacement.
TDCPP or chlorinated tris is also a widely used replacement flame retardant for pentaBDE in polyurethane
foam. It is produced by Israeli Chemicals, Limited (ICL) under the trade name Fyrol and by Albermarle
under the trade name Antiblaze. Recent studies show TDCPP, like pentaBDE and Firemaster 550 compo-
nents, can migrate from foam products into indoor house dust [106]. These semi-volatile compounds can
form thin films on walls and windows [107]. The inhalation and ingestion of contaminated dust has been
shown to be a major route of human exposure, especially for children [106].
Few studies have been conducted on the health effects of these replacement chemicals in animals or humans.
The brominated Firemaster 550 components TBB and TBPH are genotoxic in fish, causing increased DNA
strand breaks in orally exposed fish [108]. Triphenyl phosphate (TPP) is toxic to aquatic organisms including
© International Association of Fire Safety Science 2011
Daphnia [109], rainbow trout, and fathead minnows [110]. Triaryl phosphate isopropylated is a reproduc-
tive/developmental toxin at mid- to high doses in rats [101,110]. Histopathologic changes were observed in
female reproductive organs and adrenals at all doses.
TDCPP, or chlorinated Tris, was removed from use in children’s pajamas in 1978 due to its mutagenicity
and has subsequently been found to be a probable human carcinogen in a study at the US Consumer Prod-
uct Safety Commission (CPSC) [111]. The CPSC report estimates the lifetime cancer risk from tris-treated
furniture foam is up to 300 cancer cases/million and their chronic hazard guidelines define a substance as
hazardous if lifetime cancer risk exceeds one in a million. TDCPP is also absorbed by humans [112]. The
US EPA considers TDCPP a moderate hazard for cancer and reproductive/developmental effects [113].
A recent study showed that men living in homes with high amounts of the organophosphate flame retard-
ants TPP and TDCPP in house-hold dust had reduced sperm counts and altered levels of hormones related
to fertility and thyroid function [114]. High levels of TPP in dust were associated with a substantial reduc-
tion of sperm concentrations and an increase in prolactin levels. Increased prolactin is considered a marker
of decreased neuroendocrine/dopamine activity and also may be associated with erectile dysfunction [115].
High levels of TDCPP in dust were associated with a 17 % increase in prolactin and a 3 % decline in free
thyroid hormone levels. The possible synergistic or additive effects of the numerous flame retardant chemi-
cals in use have not been studied in animals or humans.
Since 1975, hundreds of millions of kilograms of pentaBDE and its replacements which include TDCPP
and Firemaster 500 have been used to meet California TB117. A fire safety benefit has not been estab-
lished. Research suggests that this standard should be reevaluated in light of the fire science and health in-
formation discussed above. Prior to implementing new flammability standards, decision makers should
evaluate the potential fire safety benefit as well as the health and environmental impacts of the chemicals,
materials, or technologies likely to be used. Special scrutiny should be given to small open-flame standards
that are likely to be met by adding organohalogen flame retardants to foam or plastic in consumer products.
The authors wish to thank many colleagues whose expertise in science and policy has informed this article:
Susan Shaw, Kannan Kurunthachalam, David Rich, Don Lucas, Catherine Koshland, Dina Dobraca, Ro-
land Weber, Alex Madonik, Michael Kirschner, Raphael Shannon, Ann Stein. We also thank Sarah Han-
son, Michelle Berger, Eileen Kramer, Peter Brigham, and Nickilou Krigbaum, for their assistance.
Disclaimer: The research described in this article has been reviewed by the National Institute of Environ-
mental Health Sciences, and approved for publication. Approval does not signify that the contents neces-
sarily reflect the views of the Agency, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products consti-
tute endorsement or recommendation for use.
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© International Association of Fire Safety Science 2011
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© International Association of Fire Safety Science 2011
© International Association of Fire Safety Science 2011
... 2,11 In the last few decades, fire-retardant (FRs) chemicals have been largely used in attempt to reduce RUF flammability; however, concerns about possible deleterious effects on human health and the environment, posed by specific FRs, led to a public backlash and to a reassessment of costs/benefits associated with the use of such chemicals. [12][13][14][15][16] In the US, severe limitations on the use of FRs in RUF have been introduced or are under consideration by legislators in multiple states: in 2017, the state of Maine (LD 182) banned any chemical compound for which "fire retardant" appears on the material safety data sheet 17 ; in 2018, California passed a law (AB2998) that banned halogenated, organo-phosphorous, organo-nitrogen chemicals, and nanofillers. 18 Due to the size of the California market, furniture manufacturers might well adopt AB2998 nationwide and avoid the costs associated with the production and distribution of AB2998 compliant and noncompliant RUF. ...
The effectiveness and the failure mechanism of fire barriers ina residential upholstered furniture (RUF) were investigated by full-scale flaming tests on upholstered chair mock-ups. Six commercial fire barriers were tested in this study. Fire barriers were screened for the presence of elements that are typically used in fire retardants and the presence of commonly used fire retardants. For each fire barrier, triplicate flammability tests were run on chair mock-ups, where polyurethane foam and polyester fiber fill were used as the padding materials, and each chair component was fully wrapped with the fire barrier of choice and a polypropylene cover fabric. The ignition source was an 18 kW square propane burner, impinging on the top surface of the seat cushion for 80 seconds. Results showed all six fire barriers reduced the peak heat release rate (as much as ≈64%) and delayed its occurrence (up to ≈19 minutes) as compared to the control chair mock-ups. The heat release rate remained at a relatively low plateau level until liquid products (generated by either melting or pyrolysis of the padding material) percolated through the fire barrier at the bottom of the seat cushion and ignited, while the fire barrier was presumably intact. The flaming liquid products dripped and quickly formed a pool fire under the chair, and the peak heat release rate occurred shortly thereafter. Ultimately, the ignition of the percolating liquid products at the bottom of the seat cushion was identified as the mechanism triggering the failure of the fire barrier.
... Before 2004, the most popular FRs in industrial and household goods were polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). However, the restrictions were implemented worldwide because of growing concerns regarding their bioaccumulation, persistence, and toxicity (Babrauskas et al. 2011;Shaw et al. 2010). These constraints on the manufacturing and prohibited use of PBDEs have contributed to higher production and the usage of alternative FRs, such as organophosphate FRs (OPFRs). ...
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People spend a substantial proportion of their time indoors; therefore, exposure to contaminants in indoor dust is persistent and profuse. According to the findings of recent studies, contaminants such as flame retardants (FRs), organochlorines (OCs), and phthalate esters (PAEs) are more prevalent in indoor dust. The discrepancy in the geographical distribution of these chemicals indicates country-specific applications. However, many studies have revealed that chlorophosphates, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate are frequently detected in indoor dust throughout the world. Although some chemicals (e.g., OCs) were banned/severely restricted decades ago, they have still been detected in indoor dust. These organic contaminants have shown clear evidence of carcinogenic, neurotoxic, immunogenic, and estrogenic activities. Recent extraction methods have shown their advantages, such as high recoveries, less solvent consumption, less extraction time and simplicity of use. The latest separation techniques such as two-dimensional gas/liquid chromatography, latest ionization techniques (e.g., matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI)), and modern techniques of mass spectrometry (e.g., tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS), time-of-flight (TOF) and high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS)) improve the detection limits, accuracy, reproducibility and simultaneous detection of organic contaminants. For future perspectives, it is suggested that the importance of the study of dust morphology for comprehensive risk analysis, introducing standard reference materials to strengthen the analytical methods, adopt common guidelines for comparison of research findings and the importance of dust analysis in the developing world since lack of records on the production and usage of hazardous substances. Such measures will help to evaluate the effectiveness of prevailing legislations and to set up new regulations. Graphic Abstract
... 17 In response to the potential human harm associated with flame retardant exposures, California TB 117 flammability regulation has been replaced by TB 117-2013. 1 3 where upholstered furniture can be found. Upholstered furniture is the leading item first ignited for residential fire deaths. ...
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Upholstered furniture remains a consumer fire hazard. Flame retardant technologies are necessary but may present a health risk from chemical exposure. This study developed methodologies for measuring exposure to flame retardants and flammability performance, comparing the effectiveness of differing flammability reduction strategies on upholstered chairs with and without added flame retardants and the use of a barrier material. The chemical analysis focused on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and flame retardants. Open flame tests were conducted on chair assemblies, and smolder resistance tests were conducted on chair materials. Results showed that VOC inhalation exposure during consumer use was low for all chair types. However, VOCs were significantly elevated during the chair burns. The organophosphorus flame retardant used in this study was found in air, settled dust and dermal transfer samples. The chairs with a barrier material demonstrated significantly lower flammability hazards when compared to the other chair types. All assembled chairs did not meet the criteria for smolder testing, suggesting a lack of correlation with open‐flame performance. This study demonstrated that combined human health and flammability advantages may be achieved for upholstered chairs constructed with an effective fire barrier material without any added flame retardants.
... However, there has recently been great debate about the environmental impact of some fire retardants (e.g. [50]), which has led to legislators contemplating rolling back requirements on fire-resistant furnishings. There are, however, other ways to achieve fire resistance such as using inter-liners [51], but substituting cotton-based fabrics on furniture with a synthetic material (such as polyester) will also reduce the risk of ignition by a cigarette from 43%-86% to 2%-5% [52]. ...
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Fatal fires in residential occupancies show a decreasing trend over time, but are still responsible for taking approximately 90 lives in Sweden each year. Much is known about the victims, but less is known about how these deaths can be prevented. There is research on the effectiveness of different measures, but generally they are population average effectiveness and, since different groups are known to be subject to quite different scenarios, this effectiveness is not necessarily representative of the effectiveness for any specific group. Therefore, group-specific effectiveness is derived in this thesis. The results indicate that smoke alarms are effective for most groups, but additional measures are needed for some groups. This is particularly true for older adults, for whom synthetic clothes and detector-activated sprinklers are highly effective. Also, responses to potentially fatal fires in residential occupancies are almost missing from the literature and were therefore analysed in the thesis. The conclusion was that fire services saved 51 lives during the studied year (2017), which indicates that the number of fatalities in residential occupancies would have increased by 58% in that year without fire service responses. Response time was found to be important, but also what the crew could perform on arrival at each scene, because many were developed fires that required breathing apparatus to perform the rescue. In another study, responses by other actors were also included for older adults (65+), indicating that, in addition to the fire service, neighbours are very important, but for the oldest individuals home care also played an important role.
... 17 In response to the potential human harm associated with flame retardant exposures, California TB 117 flammability regulation has been replaced by TB 117-2013. 1 3 where upholstered furniture can be found. Upholstered furniture is the leading item first ignited for residential fire deaths. ...
... Gymnast exposure to FRs in foam training equipment is likely widespread due to preferential purchasing of equipment treated with FRs due to concerns about fire safety. However, the fire safety benefit of FRs in foam training equipment has not been quantified, and the popular fire safety standard California Technical Bulletin 117 was recently updated for upholstered furniture to eliminate the need for additive FRs in foam after reassessment identified little fire safety benefit (Babrauskas et al., 2011;Shaw et al., 2010). Therefore, we conducted both a fire safety and intervention study to test our hypotheses that fire safety can be maintained in a gym without the use of FRs and that replacing the foam in a pit using foam free of additive FR would reduce gymnast exposure during practice. ...
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Gymnasts can have high exposures to flame retardants (FRs), which are used in gymnastics safety equipment such as the loose foam pit. Therefore, we aimed to reduce gymnast exposure to FRs by replacing the foam in the pit using foam free of additive FR and measuring personal exposure during practice using hand-wipes. To assure maintenance of fire safety we first conducted a flammability study and facilitated a fire inspection for our partner gym. The FR-treated cubes had similar heat release rates to the non-FR treated cubes, required a 11 cm larger flame size applied for 6 s longer to ignite, and took 4 min longer to reach peak flame height. Based on these findings and the presence of other fire safety measures including smoke detectors and a sprinkler system, the local fire and building departments approved replacement of the foam pit with FR-free foam. We then replaced foam in the gym's pit, verified it was free of any additive FRs, and quantified common halogenated and organophosphate FRs on hand-wipes collected from ten collegiate gymnasts before and after practice, pre- and post-intervention. We observed a 5-fold decline in the median mass of FRs found in pit foam that accumulated on hand-wipes during practice among gymnasts who used the foam pit (p = 0.02), indicating that replacing the foam in a pit using materials free of FRs can reduce gymnast exposure to these chemicals during practice.
... This interpretation is echoed in an National Fire Protection Association report that concludes, "The past impact of historically favored fire retardant treatments on fire deaths [from open flame fires] could not have been very large, even if they reliably performed as intended in all fires." 24(pii) The efficacy of treating polyurethane foam with FRs to meet TB117 has also been challenged by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 25 fire engineers, 26 and fire safety professionals. 27 In addition to concerns about the efficacy of FRs, health concerns have led to regulatory and manufacturing changes to limit the use of FR chemicals. ...
Objectives. To evaluate the risk of death and injury in residential fires started on upholstered furniture, with a focus on open flame and cigarette-related heat sources. Methods. We used civilian death and injury data from 34 081 residential fires in the Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System from 2003 to 2016. We compared outcomes associated with fires that started on upholstered furniture ignited by smoking materials versus open flames. Results. Although fires starting on upholstered furniture were not common (2.2% of total fires), odds of death and injury were significantly higher in these fires than in fires started on other substrates. Among furniture fires, odds of death were 3 times greater when those fires were ignited by smoking materials than when ignited by open flames (odds ratio = 3.4; 95% confidence interval = 1.3, 10.9). Conclusions. Furniture fires started by smoking materials were associated with more deaths than were furniture fires started by open flames. Public Health Implications. Historically, furniture flammability regulations have focused on open flame heat sources, resulting in the addition of toxic flame retardants to furniture. Interventions to reduce deaths should instead focus on smoking materials. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print July 18, 2019: e1-e7. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2019.305157).
... Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are synthetic compounds having flame-retardant properties and applied in various products starting in the early 1970s [1,2] to meet fire resistance codes such as California Technical Bulletin 117 [3]. They can be found in many household materials like plastics and polymers (mainly polyurethane foam), electric and electronic devices (circuit boards, electrical insulation), rubber, and textiles as well as in many other fields. ...
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Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been used as flame retardants in various building materials, plastic and other polymers, airplanes, electronics, etc. All or some of their congeners have been already banned in many countries, due to their persistency and adverse health effects. In this study, we are focusing on e-wastes as a source of emission of PBDEs in ambient air during reclamation processes. The ambient air particulate matter (PM) samples were collected at and near an e-waste reclamation site in Bangkok, Thailand. Results showed the presence of various homologues, viz: tri-, tetra-, penta-, hexa-, and hepta-PBDEs in both PM2.5 and total suspended particle (TSP) samples. The comparison of samples as a function of distance from the reclamation site indicated elevated levels of PBDEs in close proximity to the e-waste site. Interestingly, a shift in the congener pattern was observed with lower brominated PBDEs being more prevalent in nearby off-site samples as compared to the PM collected at the e-waste site. The total penta-PBDEs concentration is almost double in the e-waste site PM2.5 compared to the control site samples. For TSP, tetra, penta, and hepta-PBDEs congeners are at higher concentrations at the e-waste sites and its vicinity compared to reference sites. Overall, a clear trend can be observed indicating a debromination of PBDEs to more toxic tri and tetra congeners during the reclamation process and PBDEs are being translocated from treated materials to ambient air PM. BDE 30 is uniquely detected in our studies as a dominant final debromination product, that can be used as a marker of thermal e-waste activity. This work indicates potential hazards related to the reclamation of e-wastes and remediation of sites containing PBDEs. In particular, thermal treatment methods can lead to congener transformation and increased emissions of more toxic lower brominated congeners.
Fire spread and growth on real‐scale four cushion mock‐ups of residential upholstered furniture (RUF) were investigated with the goal of identifying whether changes in five classes of materials (barrier, flexible polyurethane foam, polyester fiber wrap, upholstery fabric, and sewing thread), referred to as factors, resulted in statistically significant changes in burning behavior. A fractional factorial experimental design plus practical considerations yielded a test matrix with 20 material combinations. Experiments were repeated a minimum of two times. Measurements included fire spread rates derived from video recordings and heat release rates (HRRs). A total of 13 experimental parameters (3 based on the videos and 10 on the HRR results), referred to as responses, characterized the measurements. Statistical analyses based on Main Effects Plots (main effects) and Block Plots (main effects and factor interactions) were used. The results showed that three of the factors resulted in statistically significant effects on varying numbers of the 13 responses. The Barrier and Fabric factors had the strongest main effects with roughly comparable magnitudes. Foam was statistically significant for fewer of the responses and its overall strength was weaker than for Barrier and Fabric. No statistically significant main effects were identified for Wrap or Thread. Multiple two‐term interactions between factors were identified as being statistically significant. The Barrier*Fabric interaction resulted in the highest number of and strongest statistically significant effects. The existence of two‐term interactions means that it will be necessary to consider their effects in approaches designed to predict the burning behavior of RUF.
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The optimal conditions for the extraction of eight polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were determined using 32 factorial design of experiments (DOE). The independent variables were coded at three levels and their actual values were selected on the basis of the preliminary experimental results. DOE consisted of nine runs with three replicates at the central point. A second-order polynomial model was used for predicting the response. After the optimization of the duration of extraction, the ratio of solvents and purification and instrumental parameters, the optimized conditions were applied on the samples taken from the surface layer of soil from 24 potentially contaminated locations (landfills, ex marshalling yard, dump of secondary raw materials and automotive waste). The gas chromatographic analysis with electron capture detection (GC-ECD) was used for the determination of PBDEs. The recovery values of BDE congeners at five concentration levels ranged between 80% and 115%. The total PBDEs concentrations ranged from 4.4 to 729 μg kg-1 of absolutely dry soil. The suitability of the experiment was proved by comparing the experimental and predicted values of the variable parameters. [Project of the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Grant no. III 43010 and Grant no. 17619]
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This is the only authoritative treatise to encompass the entire field of ignition. The 1116-page handbook was published in cooperation with the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, under whose auspices the peer review was performed.
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A new instrument, termed a furniture calorimeter, has been constructed and placed into operation for measuring furniture heat release rates based on oxygen consumption. Using the furniture calorimeter, burning rate information has been obtained on a series of 13 chairs, loveseats, and sofas, most of them specially built to permit direct comparisons of construction features. A quantitative assessment is made of the effect of fabric types, padding types (cotton batting, ordinary polyurethane foam, and California-requirements foam), and frame types. The advantages of furniture calorimeter testing over normal room fire testing are discussed. Based on these measurements, a rule is presented for estimating the heat release rate based on design factors. Finally, implications for achieving both good flame resistance and good cigarette ignition resistance are discussed.
Cited By (since 1996): 81 , Export Date: 4 February 2013 , Source: Scopus , The following values have no corresponding Zotero field: Author Address: Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ 08854, United States Author Address: International Centre for Indoor Environment and Energy, Technical University of Denmark, DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark Author Address: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1710, United States
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of flame retardants used in a variety of consumer products. In the past 25 years, PBDEs have become ubiquitous environmental contaminants. They have been detected in soil, air, sediments, birds, marine species, fish, house dust, and human tissues, blood and breast milk. Diet and house dust appear to be the major sources of PBDE exposure in the general population, though occupational exposure can also occur. Levels of PBDEs in human tissues are particularly high in North America, compared to Asian and European countries, and have been increasing in the past 30 years. Concentrations of PBDEs are particularly high in breast milk, resulting in high exposure of infants. In addition, for toddlers, dust has been estimated to account for a large percentage of exposure. PBDEs can also cross the placenta, as they have been detected in fetal blood and liver. Tetra-, penta- and hexaBDEs are most commonly present in human tissues. The current greatest concern for potential adverse effects of PBDEs relates to their developmental neurotoxicity. Pre- or postnatal exposure of mice or rats to various PBDEs has been shown to cause long-lasting changes in spontaneous motor activity, mostly characterized as hyperactivity or decreased habituation, and to disrupt performance in learning and memory tests. While a reduction in circulating thyroid hormone (T(4)) may contribute to the developmental neurotoxicity of PBDEs, direct effects on the developing brain have also been reported. Among these, PBDEs have been shown to affect signal transduction pathways and to cause oxidative stress. Levels of PBDEs causing developmental neurotoxicity in animals are not much dissimilar from levels found in highly exposed infants and toddlers.
A designed set of upholstered chairs, differing variously with respect to foam, fabric and the use of an interliner, was subjected to rate of heat release studies using a specially constructed room calorimeter. Although the ease of ignition was found to be influenced by the covering fabric, major prog ress toward reducing fire risk was demonstrated through the use of improved materials such as combustion modified high resiliency foam and melamine modified foam. The presence of an interliner in the chair construction was addi tionally effective and, when used together with the modified foams, resulted in optimum fire performance.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are brominated flame retardants (BFRs) which have recently been detected in human blood and milk in the USA, and presently these PBDE levels are found to be the highest globally. On a population basis, individual blood and individual milk analyses show similar congener patterns and levels. Until now, there has not been a study comparing PBDE levels in milk and blood of the same individuals. This study is the first to report these levels for PBDEs, though partitioning between blood and milk has been done previously for dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Twelve congeners in 11 nursing mothers’ blood and milk were found and the data describe partitioning ratios between blood and milk. The data suggest it may be easier for smaller, less brominated congeners to move from blood to milk.
The potential fire hazard presented by plastic based combustible interior finish materials is discussed. Compartment fire experimental methods and apparatus based on Uniform Building Code Standard No. 42-2 were used to study the effect of ignition source exposure and specimen configuration on the actual fire growth characteristics of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) foam wall covering. The results obtained are qualitative in nature, clearly demonstrating two important characteristics of the fire behavior of PVC foam: (i) the PVC foam has a ‘critical’ ignition source strenght of 64–75 kW; (ii) preheating the PVC foam greatly increases its peak net rate of heat release.
Previous analyses of 52 peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) eggs collected from two wild and one captive population in Sweden 1987 through 1999 were complemented by including additional polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) congeners (BDE −35, −183, −184, −185, −196, −197, −;203, and −207). In addition, 31 eggs not previously analyzed for hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and BDE-209 were analyzed for these. Geometric mean concentrations of ΣPBDEs, HBCD, and the hexabrominated biphenyl (BB-153) were 3,100, 140, and 81 ng/g of lipid weight for the southern population; 2,500, 110, and 84 ng/g of lipid weight for the northern population; and 47, not detected, and 8 ng/g of lipid weight for the captive population. The BDE congener pattern was dominated by BDE-153, −99, and −100. The results were used to investigate whether a difference in PBDE congener pattern could be distinguished between the two wild populations of peregrine falcons due to different diets, as the southern population preys mainly on birds belonging to the terrestrial food chain while the northern population preys more on aquatic birds. A multivariate t-test showed a subtle but significant (p < 0.001) difference in PBDE congener pattern between the two populations. However, our hypothesis that higher-brominated congeners of PBDEs would be present to a greater extent in the terrestrial food chain was not supported by principal component analysis. The average brood size for individual females from the southern population decreased with increasing concentrations of ΣPBDE in the eggs (log-linear regressionp < 0.01).