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Toxic chemicals in your car seats could be increasing risks of cancer, study warns

Toxic chemicals in your car seats could be increasing risks of cancer, study warns
Have you been harbouring the misimpression that the worst thing that could happen to you while commuting to work is getting stuck in rush hour traffic? As it turns out, being trapped in your car for the duration is even worse because you could be inadvertently breathing in cancer-causing air. This is a real bummer, considering rolling down your windows would mean inhaling polluted air most of the time.

New research has found flame retardants in nearly all (99%) of the cars tested in the US. These chemicals, including tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCIPP) and tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP).

Why is this a problem? These chemicals are linked to cancer, neurological problems, and even lower IQ in children. In fact, even firefighters seem to have been raising concerns about flame retardants potentially contributing to their high cancer rates.

And companies have been adding these potentially carcinogenic flame retardants to car seats and other materials, off-gassing harmful chemicals into the air you breathe.

“Considering the average driver spends about an hour in the car every day, this is a significant public health issue. It’s particularly concerning for drivers with longer commutes as well as child passengers, who breathe more air pound for pound than adults,” explains lead author Rebecca Hoehn, a scientist at Duke University.

Here's the kicker: exposure seems to be worse during hot weather. Car interiors can reach scorching temperatures, causing these flame retardants to break down and pollute the air you breathe.

The good news? There's a safer way. California, US, for example, updated its flammability standards for furniture and baby products to eliminate flame retardants without compromising safety. This update actually led to a decrease in flame retardant levels in homes, proving there's a better path forward.

While opening windows and parking in the shade can help, the real solution lies in urging car manufacturers and safety regulators to update outdated standards. We shouldn't have to choose between fire safety and our health. “Commuting to work shouldn’t come with a cancer risk, and children shouldn’t breathe in chemicals that can harm their brains on their way to school,” says the study’s co-author Lydia Jahl, a senior scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute.

The findings of this study have been detailed in Environmental Science & Technology and can be accessed here.


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