Is There A Link Between Fire Retardants & Brain Tumours?

With an estimated 50% of people likely to contract some form of cancer in their lifetime, there has been an understandable rise in concern about the potentially carcinogenic effects of commonly used chemicals. Fire retardants, used in millions of sofas and mattresses across the UK, have recently been linked to (depending on the source) thyroid cancer, and pituitary brain tumours.

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We would like to reassure readers that there are no known cancer risks associated with any of the firefighting products we use.

Furthermore, the link itself is far from proved, being linked to only a single US study of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE) carried out in January 2014. The study linked exposure to PBDEs in household dust to a heightened risk of thyroid cancer.

The study sampled blood levels of PBDE from 70 healthy subjects and 70 subjects with diagnosed thyroid cancer and did find raised levels of PBDE in some of the cancer sufferers. However, it is important to note that this was a small study and by no means representative of the general American population. Furthermore, no direct link between PBDEs and thyroid (or other) cancer has been proved. The results have not been replicated.

What are PBDEs?

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers are a once common fire retardant used in domestic furniture. Concerns were raised about its toxicity independently of this study, leading to it being phased out in the USA from 2004 onwards. PBDEs were also banned in the European Union in August 2004, so if your sofa/mattress is less than 13 years old you should have no cause for concern.

Should you be worried?

We don’t believe you have any reason to worry. The story broke in the UK in an online article in The Sun in April 2017, which used the three year old US study as its source. The story linked thyroid cancer more generally to pollutants in household dust, something for which there is no firm clinical evidence. At the same time, some vets expressed concern about a link between PBDEs and a rise in pituitary tumours in pets, although no research has yet been published.

A European study carried out in 20121 found only very low levels of PBDE in the cord blood or breast milk of participants – far too low to pose a health risk.

At Fire Safe International we take toxicity very seriously and always follow the latest guidelines on the use of fire retardant chemicals in our products. We also keep up to date on evidence-based research on chemicals from around the world, to ensure that no substances with proved links to human ill-health are used in our products.

To find out more about our products and services, please get in touch by calling 01743 761 000.