New Study Shows Flame Retardants Do Not Increase Chronic Smoke Toxicity

WASHINGTON (July 12, 2022) — UN study Recently published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A compared burning household furniture with and without flame retardants, concluding that smoke from burning fire-retardant furniture did not increase potential chronic toxicity risks ( including cancer).

The study titled “Evaluation of Potential Toxicity of Smoke from Controlled Burns of Furnished Rooms – Effect of Flame Retardancy”, led by Thomas G. Osimitz, Ph.D., addressed the use of short-term bioassays to analyze the potential chronic toxicity of smoke from burning fireproof and non-fireproof furniture.

“The incorporation of flame retardants into furnishings and electronics has been claimed to increase the toxicity of smoke produced during combustion in household fires,” Osimitz said. “In this study, smoke from burning fire-retardant furniture did not increase indicators of potential chronic toxicity risks compared to non-fire-retardant furniture.”

Chronic smoke toxicity is a concern primarily for firefighters who may be repeatedly exposed to intermittent smoke and soot throughout their careers in a variety of scenarios, such as a residential fire, fire commercial or vehicle fire. The cell bioassay used in this study measured a set of genetic responses associated with increased risks of chronic toxicity. Previous studies were limited to the detection and measurement of specific chemicals, but they did not measure the biological activity of the sample – a crucial step in assessing chronic risks, such as cancer.

This publication is a companion paper to that written by Blais, Carpenter, and Fernandez, who reported on aspects of fire science, such as heat development and smoke, by comparing fireproof and nonfireproof household furniture.

The American Chemistry Council’s (NAFRA) Flame Retardant Alliance funded this work. NAFRA is dedicated to supporting a strong scientific portfolio, characterizing flame retardants in the areas of fire science, toxicology, sustainability and circularity. NAFRA had no control over the experimental design, the results reported in this article, or the decision of where this article was submitted for publication.

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