A recent study highlighted the prevalence of flame retardant chemicals coming off electronics in our homes—especially with devices that are always on. By law, electronic products must have chemicals added to them to protect against fires. The chemicals that are added to the plastic enclosures around electronics are not bound to the plastics. They can come off into the air and dust in our homes (also read our article about the chemicals found in our household dust: Toxic Chemicals in Indoor Dust).
The Study, Its Findings, & What to Do
Recently, The Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment conducted a study to understand how much of the flame retardants on our electronics are coming off into our inside spaces. The Czech-based organization evaluated air and dust samples in rooms of a newly constructed building in the Czech Republic. Samples were taken both after the computers were installed and after the computers were switched on.
We were surprised to learn that after the computers were installed, no significant increase in levels of flame retardants in the air was found. However, after they were switched on the emissions of halogenated flame retardants increased by 886%. (From 167 pg m-3 to 1480 pg m-3.) This shows that the effects of electronics (at least computers) on our indoor air quality, is determined by how often they are on. Remember to turn off your home computers when you aren’t using them. Also keep any turned-on electronics out of spaces where our babies spend time, when possible.
Read the full study in the Environmental Science & Technology article, “Changes in Flame Retardant and Legacy Contaminant Concentrations in Indoor Air during Building Construction, Furnishing, and Use“.
Learn More & Help Support Green Science
This information was shared with us by the Green Science Policy Institute. They have done some of the most important work to date on flame retardant chemicals. Visit their site to learn more about this work or please donate directly to help support what they do.