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Sweeping Policy Changes Critical for Flame Retardants
The report closely examines the health risks that flame retardants pose to the general population and recommends sweeping policy changes to protect the public.
Flame retardants are now ubiquitous in the environment. They are found in almost all consumer products and pose health risks to fetuses, infants, children and the entire human population.
The report examines the history of flame retardants and demonstrates the enormous scope of the problem. Flame retardants are persistent and accumulate in human bodies. They are in the bodies of most U.S. residents and have even been found in the polar bears and whales, which illustrate how far they have spread.
"Because exposures to flame retardants carry health risks, they should only be used when the risk of fire outweighs the risk from flame retardant exposures," said John Wargo, Ph.D., first author of the report and the Tweedy-Ordway Professor of Environmental Health and Political Science at Yale University. "When risk from fire is high, such as in airplanes, then the use of flame retardants is warranted. When the risk from fire is low, flame retardants should not be used."
Moreover, flame retardants are not required to undergo health and environmental testing in the U.S., and they are not required to be labeled on the products that contain them.
"Manufacturers should start labeling their products so that consumers can understand when flame retardants have been added," said Dr. Andrea Asnes, associate professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine.
The history of flame retardant use in the U.S. is a story of substituting one dangerous flame retardant for another, the report says. For decades, asbestos was used as a fire retardant. Then when asbestos was proven too dangerous, the country switched to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Five decades later, when PCBs were deemed too dangerous, the country began using chlorinated and brominated flame retardants.
In the 1970s, a flame retardant called Tris was added to children's sleepwear. Tris later was found to be carcinogenic and capable of being absorbed through the skin. Tris was finally banned in children's sleepwear in 1977. Unbelievably, however, Tris is still used in many other infant products, such as crib mattresses, changing tables, nap mats and infant car seats.
"There is ample evidence concerning the health risks from Tris to conclude that it should be removed from all infant products," said Dr. D. Barry Boyd, an oncologist at Greenwich Hospital and affiliate member of the Yale Cancer Center.
Recent toxicological studies demonstrate that flame retardants pose the greatest risk to the normal growth and development of fetuses, infants and children.
"Many flame retardants are endocrine-disrupting compounds that can affect a number of hormonal systems, including thyroid function," said Dr. Hugh Taylor, chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale School of Medicine. "Many flame retardants are capable of crossing the placenta and therefore pose a health risk to fetuses and the ensuing child."
EHHI is calling for a certification program in which manufacturers would certify the absence of flame retardants, just as organic food programs certify the absence of pesticides.
"It has become clear that flame retardants are proving to be a health risk to both the human population and the environment," said Nancy Alderman, EHHI president. "It is time for flame retardants to be removed from all low fire-risk situations and products."
Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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