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CAT | Toxins and Health

boy-costumeBased on the results of yet another study involving flame retardant chemicals, scientists from the Silent Spring Institute say most Americans are harboring at least a handful of these toxins in their bodies—including one called TDCIPP that was supposedly phased out in the 1970s and one called TCEP that previously hasn’t been seen in Americans.

Study author Robin Dodson and a team of researchers analyzed urine samples from more than a dozen California residents, looking specifically for six “rarely studied” chemicals with a laundry list of health risks including cancer, neurological disorders, and damage to the nervous and reproductive systems. As you might expect, they found evidence of all six substances.

So how are we being exposed to these dangerous chemicals? Possibly just by sitting on the couch or lying in bed, scientists say, since the flame retardants are most often found in the polyurethane foam used to make furniture (along with other textiles, upholstery, carpet and plastics). Further, high amounts of TCEP and TDCIPP in the body were linked to high levels of the chemicals in household dust, pointing to our homes as a primary exposure source.

“When you sit on your couch, you want to relax, not get exposed to chemicals that may cause cancer,” said Dodson in a recent news release. “Some flame retardants have been targeted for phase out, but unfortunately there are others that have largely been under the radar,” she added.

Dodson and her team recommend purchasing furniture made without flame retardant chemicals, as well as vacuuming with a HEPA filter and frequent hand washing (especially before eating) to reduce exposure to the harmful substances.

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detergent-packetsYou’ve probably seen those nifty little laundry detergent gel packs. The ones you just pop in the washing machine without worrying about heavy bottles or messy spills? Have you noticed how their tiny size and bright colors make them look surprisingly appealing—almost like a piece of candy or an infant teething toy? Kids are apparently thinking the same thing, according to a new study, resulting in a wave of accidental poisonings and at least two deaths.

The convenient, single-load packets first entered the market about two years ago, and currently about ten different brands offer them. From the beginning, experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voiced concern they may be a threat to public health. However, production continued and since then more than 17,000 children—roughly one child every hour—have been harmed due to exposure, either by ingesting the toxic contents or getting the concentrated detergent in their eyes.

The new study, led by Dr. Gary Smith of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, takes into account all cases of poisoning reported to the National Poison Data System since 2012. (However, researchers point out that because such reporting is voluntary, there may be many more unreported cases.) Most cases involved ingestion, and symptoms seen most often were vomiting, coughing and choking, along with eye irritation and sluggishness. Thirty children went into comas and 12 suffered seizures.

According to a recent New York Times article, the packets have caused nearly 6,000 emergency room visits and 750 hospitalizations—half of which required intensive care. One of the biggest problems experts have found is that only a very thin layer of dissolvable plastic surrounds the harmful detergent—a layer that can be broken easily when bitten by little mouths. One mother said she simply dropped a packet on the ground, and within seconds it was in her child’s mouth, resulting in intensive care treatment for her son.

Despite warnings from consumer advocacy groups, poison centers and manufacturers to keep the detergent packets out of the reach and sight of children, accidents continue to happen. In response, some manufacturers have made the product packaging less appealing and harder to open. Health officials would also like to see better labeling concerning the extreme health risks involved, as well as increased public education on product safety.

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