Some of the many products in our homes bearing brominated flame retardants.
According to two chemists (Arlene Blum and Bruce Ames) based at the University of California - Berkeley, and published in Science:
"The main flame retardant in children's pajamas is a mutagen and should not be used."
To be specific, the culprit ingredient is known as tris (2,3 -dibromopropyl) phosphate, or Tris-BP for short, a frontline flame retardant. It's main claim to infamy is not only as a likely carcinogen, but a factor for sterility in animal studies. It also features a chemical composition alarmingly similar to ethyl dibromide (EDB) the lead scavenger and also used as a fumigant for crops.
As with the notable work of Devra Davis ('The Secret History of the War On Cancer') who exposed the multiple ways chemicals in the environment are the primary cancer agents, so also Blume and Ames have exposed the danger of chemicals in flame retardants - which are now ubiquitous in all manner of products.
Since the 1970s, when the use of brominated flame retardants exploded, Tris -BP has found ways to enter the ecosystem. The ramping up of brominated flame retardants occurred largely owing to a misjudgment of California state regulators in dealing with increased house fires caused by cigarettes. Prior to the 70s it had been known that cigarette makers had been adding chemicals to make cigs last longer, up to ten minutes. This led to many house fires, as people smoking in bed would inevitably nod off before they knew the bedroom was in flames. State regulators and legislators then called on manufacturers to develop cigs less likely to start fires.
But the tobacco industry cleverly shifted the blame from its products to common household furniture and wares that were too "flammable" . (In one case describing a foam couch as laden with "solid gasoline") Then, in 1975, a California state agency enacted a regulation that was a godsend for chemical manufacturers. It mandated a rule that all furniture offered for sale was required to withstand 12 seconds of exposure to an open candle flame. The Ethyl Corporation then rushed to produce products to satisfy the reg - the rest as they say, is history. Brominated flame retardants since have found their way into a dizzying array of household items - not just furniture, but carpeting and flooring materials, bedding, baby products, computers, televisions and other electronic equipment, as well as cars, boats and aircraft.
Worried about your kid ingesting too much candy, or watching too many zombie flicks e.g.
Then you're perhaps targeting the wrong culprits, and maybe ought to look at his or her bedding, PJs, Ipad, iPhone, or even backpacks - for brominated flame retardants.
What's the fuss about? Blum and Ames in their research discovered that Tris-BP inevitably turned up in the ecosystem via wastewater from laundry. They found that six bedsheets treated with Tris- BP and washed in 30 gallons of water resulted in 6 parts per million of the toxin in the wash water- this despite only 1 ppm needed to kill goldfish.
They also found that, like many other flame retardant chemicals, Tris-BP leached readily into the bodies of people who treated fabrics. As they were quoted in The NATION investigatory piece ('Worse Than Lead?) from which the bulk of this information was gathered (Sept. 2018, pp. 15-20):
"We found a child who'd never worn Tris-treated pajamas. We had the child wear Tris-treated pajamas for one night and later found Tris-breakdown products in her urine."
Blum added (ibid.) "It was easily picked up and screamingly mutagenic."
No surprise perhaps that three months after the Blum and Ames paper was published, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned brominated Tris in children's clothing. How did the manufacturers respond? Well, they just substituted a new product: chlorinated Tris - still carcinogenic but doesn't show up in the urine quite so fast.
Needless to say the PR mills of the flame retardant makers have been working overtime to cast Blum and Ames as too fussy scientific provocateurs and merely stirring up a storm in a teacup. See .e.g
See also a recent lecture by Devra Davis on why chemical, tobacco companies etc. can't be trusted here: