Camping is a popular vacation activity for many families, but a new study conducted by researchers at Duke University offers important information for those pitching a tent in the great outdoors this summer.
Once again, common flame-retardant chemicals are the offenders—this time hiding in the fabric used to make tents. Though intended to protect those sleeping inside, many such chemicals may be dangerous to human health, and study authors believe campers may be at an increased risk due to exposure through their skin (during tent assembly) and inhalation (from sleeping inside).
After testing a variety of tents made by popular brands, researchers found varying levels of known toxic chemicals in the materials used, including triphenyl phosphate, tris phosphate, and others. And although the levels recorded were below those considered “acceptable” for the average adult, it is possible they may still pose a health risk for children.
According to the study findings, exposure levels were notably higher after the tents were set up compared with those taken prior to assembly—29 times higher in the case of the chemical tris phosphate (TDCIPP). In animal studies, TDCIPP has been linked to reproductive problems, increased cancer risk, and damage to healthy brain cells.
Though additional research is needed, Duke researchers hope their results call attention to the use of flame retardant chemicals in tent materials and prompt consumers and manufacturers alike to pay close attention to the increased risk of exposure.