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IU Research: Flame Retardant Chemicals Need More Study

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The first study of flame retardants showing up in human nails resulted in positive results in every test subject, and women had higher concentrations. (Christine Marie Fletcher)
The first study of flame retardants showing up in human nails resulted in positive results in every test subject, and women had higher concentrations. (Christine Marie Fletcher)
 By Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN, Contact
March 22, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Flame retardants save lives by preventing fires, especially in the home, but scientists at Indiana University say more study needs to be done on what kinds of damage they're doing to the environment, and possibly to humans.

Researchers collected hair, toenails and fingernails from volunteers to see the extent to which the chemicals would show up. The answer: every single person who donated samples tested positive.

Amina Salamova, lead researcher and assistant research scientist at Indiana University, says the chemicals are in the air, dust and water.

She says some have been shown to affect the thyroid and have been linked to neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity and obesity.

Salamova says it doesn't mean they should be banned, it means people need to be very careful.

"Of course flame retardants are needed to prevent fires," she says. "We need to be careful which chemicals we use so that they don't end up in the environment."

This is the first study to be done on human fingernails and toenails. Until now, researchers depended on samples of human milk, blood and urine, and those samples are more difficult to obtain than hair and nails.

Salamova says nails are the perfect test focus.

"They are slowly growing tissue so you can look at the larger window of exposure," she says. "Which means you can look at the present and past exposure."

Salamova says they found women's nails tend to have higher concentrations of common flame retardants than men's, and they speculate that's a result of nail polishes that contain these chemicals.

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