Science News
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Surprising way laundry adds flame retardants to surface waters

Date:
August 10, 2016
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
In recent years, evidence has been building suggesting that flame retardants, which are used in furniture and electronics, are potentially linked to health problems. And studies have shown that the substances leach out of products, and end up in indoor dust, air and in us. Now, scientists report how flame retardants in our homes could also be contaminating surface water through our laundry.
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Flame retardants may get into the environment through an unexpected medium: your laundry.
Credit: © sanderstock / Fotolia

In recent years, evidence has been building suggesting that flame retardants, which are used in furniture and electronics, are potentially linked to health problems. And studies have shown that the substances leach out of products, and end up in indoor dust, air and in us. Now, scientists report in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology how flame retardants in our homes could also be contaminating surface water through our laundry.

Previous studies have measured elevated levels of flame retardants in wastewater going into and coming out of treatment plants. Researchers have guessed that some of the compounds are getting transferred from indoors to the outdoor environment when retardant-containing clothes are laundered, and the wastewater makes its way to rivers and lakes. Miriam L. Diamond and colleagues wanted to test that theory.

In a pilot study, the researchers found that cotton and polyester fabrics accumulate flame retardants and plasticizers called phthalates from the air in an indoor office environment. When the fabrics were laundered, a range of these substances flowed into the wash water, which ultimately gets treated and released into the environment. The results could have implications for both aquatic life and people, the researchers say.


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Journal Reference:

  1. Amandeep Saini, Clara Thaysen, Liisa Jantunen, Rachel H. McQueen, Miriam L. Diamond. From Clothing to Laundry Water: Investigating the Fate of Phthalates, Brominated Flame Retardants, and Organophosphate Esters. Environmental Science & Technology, 2016; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b02038

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Surprising way laundry adds flame retardants to surface waters." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 August 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160810084614.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2016, August 10). Surprising way laundry adds flame retardants to surface waters. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 26, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160810084614.htm
American Chemical Society. "Surprising way laundry adds flame retardants to surface waters." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160810084614.htm (accessed May 26, 2017).

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