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Are household toxins poisoning your children?

Vinyl flooring is easy to clean, and a flame-retardant sofa seems like a smart, safe investment. But these and other common furnishings can produce household toxins that are now being found in the blood and urine of children.

A new study has found that children who live in homes where furniture has been treated with flame-retardant chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ethers carry more evidence of semi-volatile organic compounds in their bodies than other children. So do those who live in homes with vinyl flooring.

“SVOCs are widely used in electronics, furniture and building materials and can be detected in nearly all indoor environments,” Dr. Heather Stapleton of Duke University, who led the research, said in a press release. “Human exposure to them is widespread, particularly for young children who spend most of their time indoors and have greater exposure to chemicals found in household dust.”

“Nonetheless, there has been little research on the relative contribution of specific products and materials to children’s overall exposure to SVOCs,” she added.

In 2014, Stapleton moved to address that. Joined by colleagues from Duke, Boston University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she kicked off a three-year study of 203 children from 190 families, monitoring evidence of exposure to household toxins that contain semi-volatile organic compounds.

The team analyzed indoor dust and air from each home, along with foam from inside furniture – including flame-retardant chairs and sofas. They also took urine and blood samples from the children to test for the presence of household toxins.

“We quantified 44 biomarkers of exposure to phthalates, organophosphate esters, brominated flame retardants, parabens, phenols, antibacterial agents and perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS),” Stapleton said.

Children from homes that had vinyl flooring were found to have benzyl butyl phthalate metabolite in their urine. The chemical has been linked to respiratory and skin conditions and multiple myeloma, along with other issues.

Stapleton and her colleagues presented their findings today at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

By Kyla Cathey, staff writer

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