Fireproof foam used in sofas and vinyl floors contaminates children, warns a study.
Children living in public homes where these materials are commonplace have toxin levels in the blood and urine up to 15 times higher than those that are not exposed.
Researchers warn that this is another cause that leads to health inequalities between rich and poor: Flame retardant chemicals (known as PBDEs) are associated with developmental delays, obesity, endocrine and thyroid disruption, cancer and other cancer related diseases.
Dr. Heather Stapleton of Duke University, who unveiled the results of the American Association for Advancement of Science conference this week, warned that despite the attempts to contain these chemicals, they are still ubiquitous.
Few studies have investigated how or whether these chemicals enter the bloodstream of children exposed to them.
"There are concerns that these chemicals could have an impact on the skin's brain development," Dr. Stapleton.
Floor coverings may contain chemicals that affect the development of children, researchers warn  THE CHILDREN'S CHILDREN HAVE
been exposed to flame retardants
These are referred to as PBDEs (polybromated diphenyl ethers).
Chemicals with strong properties that interfere with hormones, but since the 1970s they have been added to all kinds of products to make them less susceptible to flames.
Over time, these chemicals rub off the products and accumulate on the surface. For example, with a television set, this becomes risky because televisions collect dust, and this dust can mingle with the PDBEs that humans can breathe.
At one point, most sofas, plastic bottles, carpets and televisions were made with PDBEs in any shape or form.
With the emergence of the dangers of PDBEs, further limitations have been placed on the way they can be used to limit our exposure.
But they persist in many products and have been found despite restrictions in farmed fish.
BBP in floor coverings and carpet
Benzyl butyl phthalate was mainly used as plasticizer for PVC.
It has been associated with respiratory disease, skin irritation, multiple myeoloma, and reproductive disorders.
The EU has banned BBP in all products that children would be exposed to.
The US has limited BBP, but its use is not prohibited.
"In homes with flame retardants, especially for young children who spend most of their time indoors, they are widespread, for example in household dust."
The chemicals that Dr. Stapleton examines fall under the generic term semi-volatile organic compounds are used in electronic devices, furniture and building materials.
Flame retardants, formerly used in most sofas, carpets and televisions, have been associated with a stunted development of the brain and reproductive system.
Phthalates, found in vinyl floors and carpets, are disrupting the way we store fat and soothe obesity.
While the EU has strictly forbidden these chemicals, especially in children's products, the US was not that strong.
There are other limitations: in 2010, 80 percent of Dr. Stapleton tested consumer products these chemicals. Now it's almost 20 percent since regulators crack down.
However, there is no ban and they persist – especially in public housing where floors, furniture and products have not been replaced by safer ones.
And the regulators keep finding them in unexpected places. A study from last year has shown that flame retardants in farmed fish in the US and the EU are used for PDBEs in fish farming.
Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment, together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Boston University, launched a three-year study on the exposure of these household chemicals to 203 children from 190 families.
"Our primary goal was to investigate the links between certain products and the exposure of children and determine how the exposure occurred – whether through breathing, skin contact, or inadvertent inhalation of dust," Dr. Stapleton.
The study analyzed samples of indoor air, indoor dust and foam collected from furniture in each orphanage, along with a hand wipe sample, urine and blood from each child.
Subsequently, 44 biomarkers for exposure to various chemicals were quantified, including phthalates and organophosphate esters brominated flame retardants, parabens, phenols, antibacterial agents, and perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Children from homes where the sofa in the main living area contained PBDEs had a six-fold higher concentration of PBDEs in their blood.
In children in houses with vinyl floors in all areas, levels of benzyl butyl phthalate metabolites found in urine were 15 times higher than in children without vinyl floor.
Benzylbutyl phthalate has been implicated in respiratory, skin irritation, multiple myeloma, and reproductive disorders.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC.