Toxic Hazards in Everyday Products: The Latest Science on Exposures and Adverse Health Effects Associated with Flame Retardant Chemicals

February 20, 2019 @ 9:00am (AKST)

Harmful flame retardant chemicals are added to many products, including children’s products and furniture. While one class of flame retardant chemicals, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), have been generally phased out, the chemical industry has replaced them with “regrettable substitutes,” chemicals that also have been shown to have adverse health effects. These include: reproductive impairment, neurological damage, endocrine disruption, interference with thyroid function, cancer and immune disorders. Exposure levels in infants and young children are significantly higher than in adults.

Alaskans are at higher risk from exposure to flame retardants due to the amount of time residents spend indoors in highly insulated and low ventilation areas where they are exposed through the inhalation and ingestion of household dust, recognized by scientists as a significant pathway of exposure. The Municipality of Anchorage is considering an ordinance “to protect the health of children and firefighters” that would prohibit the manufacture, sale or distribution of children’s products or furniture that contain harmful flame retardant chemicals.

On this teleconference recording you will hear about the latest science on health effects of flame retardant chemicals, hear the findings of a December 2018 study on hidden hazards of toxic chemicals in car seats, and learn about the proposed Municipality of Anchorage ordinance AO-2019-15.

Featured speakers

Kate Hoffman, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor, Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment; lead author of recent study Prenatal exposure to organophosphates and associations with birthweight and gestational length Environment International 116 (July 2018): 176-185. Her research is focused on understanding the impact of environmental chemical exposures on children’s growth and development. As a doctoral student at Boston University, Kate investigated associations between perfluoroalkyl chemicals and children’s cognitive and behavioral development. During her postdoctoral work, she shifted her focus to flame retardant exposures and came to Duke in 2014 to work in the Stapleton Lab at Duke University. Her current projects include an assessment of children’s exposure to flame retardant chemicals and an investigation of the impacts of exposure on early immune system development and function. Dr. Hoffman was awarded the 2018 Joan M. Daisey Outstanding Young Scientist Award by the International Society of Exposure Science for her contributions to the science of human exposure.

Jeff Gearhart, M.S., Research Director,, Ecology Center; Author of Hidden Hazards: Flame Retardants & PFAS in Children’s Car Seats. Jeff has worked for over 20 years on a wide range of environmental issues, including air quality, pollution prevention, life cycle assessment, consumer product testing, and green chemistry. He has worked with the Ecology Center for the past 16 years where he has spearheaded numerous chemicals policy market campaigns, co-authored multiple peer-reviewed articles on toxics in consumer products, pioneered citizen science in the use of x-ray fluorescence technology for toxics testing in products, and developed the now internationally recognized  product chemistry disclosure project. HealthStuff’s  extensive website includes  advocacy resources and product testing results for more than 100,000 products.  Jeff is assisted by numerous student interns to achieve the work of the program, providing critical exposure for young people to cutting edge technology for chemical testing.

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