Monday, May 20, 2024

Your Car Might Be a Source of Potential Carcinogens, Warns New Study

A recent study published in Environmental Science & Technology has revealed that the air inside your car could be contaminated with harmful flame retardants, some of which are known or suspected to cause cancer.

Research conducted by scientists at Duke University has found that the interior materials of cars release harmful chemicals into the cabin air. These chemicals, which include flame retardants, pose a significant public health risk, particularly for individuals with longer commutes and child passengers. The study, which analyzed 101 cars across the U.S. (model year 2015 or newer), discovered that 99% of them contained tris (1-chloro-isopropyl) phosphate (TCIPP), a flame retardant currently under investigation by the U.S. National Toxicology Program as a potential carcinogen.

Additionally, most cars tested had other organophosphate ester flame retardants present, such as tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCIPP) and tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), both of which are California Proposition 65 carcinogens. These flame retardants, along with others, have also been linked to neurological and reproductive harm.

The study also found that warmer weather is associated with higher concentrations of flame retardants inside vehicles. This is because higher temperatures increase off-gassing from interior components like seat foam, which can reach temperatures of up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

The flame retardants are added to seat foam to meet the outdated U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 302, which was first introduced in the 1970s and remains unchanged. Firefighters, who are disproportionately affected by cancer, have expressed concerns regarding the use of flame retardants, which they believe make fires smokier and more toxic.

Patrick Morrison, who oversees Health and Safety for 350,000 U.S. and Canadian firefighters at the International Association of Fire Fighters, urged NHTSA to update their flammability standard to eliminate flame retardant chemicals from vehicles.

The study suggests that opening windows and parking in the shade may help reduce exposure to flame retardants in cars, but emphasizes the necessity of reducing the amount of these chemicals added to cars altogether. According to Lydia Jahl, a senior scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute, commuting shouldn’t come with a cancer risk, and children shouldn’t be exposed to chemicals that can harm their brains on their way to school.

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