When Orlando Bloom, Melissa Etheridge and Guillermo del Toro had to evacuate their homes last year as fire tore through parts of California, they weren’t the only ones hoping that Mother Nature and the amazing fire-fighting teams would stop the inferno’s spread.
That’s because fire retardants, well, they can be lifesavers, but they’re also a focus of health and environmental concerns. Brominated flame retardants have been banned and restricted, but the replacements, organophosphate ester (OPE) flame retardants and plasticizers, are now the focus of research on retardants’ environmental impact and side effects, such as developmental issues in children, fertility problems and possibly some types of cancer.
Research presented this spring at the American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition looked into whether electronic devices were a major source of our exposure to OPEs. The conclusion: OPEs are everywhere in the home — on every surface, in floor dust, on study participants’ hands and on electronic devices. But one hotspot was a cellphone: The researchers said that when people use their cellphone (often hundreds or thousands of times daily), they ingest the compounds or absorb them through their skin.
The conclusion: Wiping down cellphones and electronic devices, as well as frequent hand-washing, is essential. Every time, put away your smartphone before you eat!
Plus, parents should be very careful about giving handheld devices to small children. They put their hands in their mouth and lick or chew on surfaces, and that may superexpose them to the toxins in OPEs.