Researchers have found that several chemicals that are on a banned list of compounds are still present in many offices and homes across the U.S. These chemicals, according to a research report published by Environmental Science and Technology
, include the flame retardant PentaBDE (pentabromodiphenyl ether).
According to Nature
was used to make sofas less flammable until being phased out by the U.S. and European Union in 2004. However, a survey of Californian homes found many instances of the chemical. Whilst new couches are free of the chemical, many people have hung onto their couches for a long time.
The survey was conducted by the Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health at the University of California, Berkeley.
The reason for the chemical being banned was because it was found to persist in household dust for years and has a level of toxicity. One study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives
, found that PentaBDE affects concentration and IQ in children whose mothers were exposed during pregnancy.
PentaBDE may enter the body by ingestion or inhalation. It is "stored mainly in body fat" and may stay in the body for years
The survey, of sixteen homes in California, also found 13 other chemicals that are closely related to PentaBDE and which may cause the same health effects.
In a separate study, Duke University
researchers found PBDEs in 39% of the couches they sampled, which were bought before 2005, across the U.S. Another 24% of those samples contained other flame retardants that are potentially damaging to health.
Further surveys may need to be conducted to assess the extent of the issue in other U.S. states.