There's another benefit to hand-washing during pandemic

  • Halogenated flame retardants used in the manufacture of TV cases can find their way onto many things you touch every day
  • Being exposed to these chemicals can put especially children's health at risk
  • This is another reason why we should all take care to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly


Washing your hands more often may do more than slow the spread of Covid-19: New research suggests it also lowers your exposure to toxic flame retardants.

How? Scientists found that halogenated flame retardants used in plastic TV cases can travel from the TV to indoor air and dust, then to hands, and then to electronic devices such as cellphones.

That means that you can be exposed to these chemicals every time you touch your cellphone, according to the study published on 9 June in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

Halogenated flame retardants, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are known to be a health risk to children. Previous research has shown that exposure to these chemicals can cause lower IQ and behavioural problems in children.

Reducing toxic chemicals

"It's well-known that viruses are transferred between surfaces and hands," said study co-author Miriam Diamond, a professor in the University of Toronto's department of earth sciences.

"Our study shows that toxic chemicals like flame retardants do the same. That's another reason we should all wash our hands often and well," Diamond said in a university news release.

Study co-author Lisa Melymuk, an assistant professor of environmental chemistry at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, noted that "if a flame retardant is used in the TVs, we then find it throughout the house, including on the hands of the resident".

And even though regular hand-washing can reduce your exposure to these chemicals, Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute in Berkeley, California., suggested that "to reduce health harm from flame retardants, the electronics industry should stop their unnecessary use".

Blum said, "Fire safety can be achieved by innovative product design and materials instead of the use of toxic chemicals that can remain in our homes – and in us – for years to come."

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
34% - 9269 votes
No
66% - 17873 votes
Vote