Much of the furniture in your home is likely coated in flame retardants—and it turns out those same flame retardants may be making themselves at home in our bodies. The Silent Spring Institute, working in tandem with Belgian researchers, tested 16 Californians for biomarkers of six flame-retardant chemicals using urine samples. Though the study, published yesterday in Environmental Science & Technology, was small, "we found all of them," the researchers say in a statement. "All" includes carcinogens TDCIPP (which was banned in kids' PJs decades ago but is still used in couches) and TCEP; the latter had never been found in Americans before and was present in 75% of the subjects. The chemicals—which have been linked to cancer and neurological and developmental disorders—may have been absorbed, in part, by breathing in dust.
A test of the dust found in the participants' homes revealed half those homes exceeded EPA health guidelines for TCEP or TDCIPP, Eureka Alert reports. A doctor not associated with the study tells the the San Jose Mercury News, "If you touch [a couch], then put food in your [mouth], you've eaten [the chemicals]. These flame retardants stay in the fat of people. They don't leave the body very readily." Researchers recommend requesting flame retardant-free furniture, cleaning surfaces with a wet cloth, and vacuuming with a HEPA filter. A rep for the North American Flame Retardant Alliance maintains the study "does not suggest that the flame retardants mentioned caused any adverse health effects." (Read a case for why we should change how flame retardants are regulated.)