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Are We Exposed to Halogenated Flame Retardants from both Primary and Secondary Sources?

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journal contribution
posted on 29.05.2020, 12:34 by Congqiao Yang, Simona Rozárka Jílková, Lisa Melymuk, Shelley Anne Harris, Liisa M. Jantunen, Jessica Pertili, Louise Winn, Miriam L. Diamond
Halogenated flame retardants (HFRs) were measured in air, floor dust, and surface wipes of electronic devices (e-devices) and hands of participants in 51 Canadian homes to assess the relationship between HFR levels in these matrices and to identify major sources and exposure pathways. Hand-held e-devices had significantly higher concentrations of all HFRs than non-hand-held devices, with the exceptions being decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE) and decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209). HFR concentrations on hands were correlated with levels in dust and hand-held e-devices, with the strongest correlations being seen for BDE-47 and -99, 2-ethylhexyl-2,3,4,5-tetrabromobenzoate (EH-TBB), and bis­(3-ethylhexyl) tetrabromophthalate (BEH-TEBP). It is highly unlikely that hand-held devices sampled in 2015 had intentionally added BDE-47 and -99 that were regulated in 2008 in Canada. We hypothesize that hands transferred these chemicals from older products, which act as primary sources, to hand-held devices, which then can act as secondary sources of exposure. This study also found evidence for TVs as a primary source of DBDPE and BDE-209 for dust, hand-held devices, and hands. We suggest that an outdated, overly stringent flammability standard, developed in the 1970s to protect against fires from “instant-on” cathode ray tube TVs, led to elevated levels of these HFRs indoors. Although the standard for TV enclosures has been updated recently, the legacy of the outdated standard persists.