Fireproof chemicals in sofas linked to thyroid cancer

11 April 2017

Chemicals used to make sofas and mattresses fireproof have been linked to thyroid cancer, experts have warned.

With substances like decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) sprayed onto fabrics and used in sofa fillings, scientists are concerned that household dust exposing them to their owners could make them ill. Research pinpoints a 74 percent increase in cases of thyroid cancer in the U.K. over the last decade, and it’s thought this is predominantly down to a number of chemicals in our households.

“The chemicals are released as household dust and enter our bodies on our food and hands, with the highest levels found in children,” Heather Stapleton from Duke University in North Carolina, who will unveil her findings in York, England, next month, said.

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“Our study looked at people with thyroid cancer and at healthy controls. We found the group with cancer had significantly higher exposure to decaBDE.”

A lot of chemicals were previously banned for use on furniture and other similar household goods, but they can still be found in many homes which still house items bought before the ban in 2004. Cancer patients were also found to have higher levels of TCEP, a flame retardant added to the banned list 16 years ago.

Furthermore, researchers found youngsters who had been exposed to chemicals during their mothers’ pregnancy, or before they turned four years old, were more likely to suffer cognitive defects.

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“The vast majority of (the) U.K. have sofas and mattresses that will contain flame retardants such as this and there is clear evidence that they are killing people,” said campaigner Terry Edge, who resigned from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy after his warnings were ignored.

“They are causing thousands of cancers and other illnesses, with children particularly vulnerable.

“There isn’t a simple way to tell if your furniture contains them because under European law manufacturers are not obliged to tell consumers what is in their products. The U.S. changed its sofa flammability laws over two years ago but in the U.K., we are still stuck with levels of flame retardants in our sofas and mattresses even higher than the USA faced.”

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