Can Couches And Vinyl Floors Really Make Kids Really Sick?

Children who live in homes with all vinyl flooring or flame-retardant chemicals in the sofa have significantly higher concentrations of potentially harmful compounds in their blood or urine than children who live in homes that don’t, according to a new study.

The study shows that kids living in homes where the sofa in the main living area contains flame-retardant polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in its foam have a six-fold higher concentration of PBDEs in their blood serum.

In laboratory tests, scientists have linked exposure to PBDEs to neurodevelopmental delays, obesity, endocrine and thyroid disruption, cancer, and other diseases.

In the new study, researchers found that children from homes with vinyl flooring in all areas had concentrations of benzyl butyl phthalate metabolite in their urine 15 times higher than those in children living with no vinyl flooring.

Experts have linked benzyl butyl phthalate to respiratory disorders, skin irritations, multiple myeloma, and reproductive disorders.

“SVOCs are widely used in electronics, furniture, and building materials and can be detected in nearly all indoor environments,” says Heather Stapleton, an associate professor of environmental health at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

“Human exposure to them is widespread, particularly for young children who spend most of their time indoors and have greater exposure to chemicals found in household dust.”


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“Nonetheless, there has been little research on the relative contribution of specific products and materials to children’s overall exposure to SVOCs,” she says.

To address that gap, the researchers began a three-year study in 2014 of in-home exposures to SVOCs among 203 children from 190 families.

“Our primary goal was to investigate links between specific products and children’s exposures, and to determine how the exposure happened—was it through breathing, skin contact, or inadvertent dust inhalation,” Stapleton says.

The researchers analyzed samples of indoor air, indoor dust, and foam collected from furniture in each of the children’s homes, along with a hand wipe sample, urine, and blood from each child.

“We quantified 44 biomarkers of exposure to phthalates, organophosphate esters, brominated flame retardants, parabens, phenols, antibacterial agents, and perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS),” Stapleton says.

About the Authors

Stapleton and colleagues presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Additional researchers are from Duke, Boston University’s School of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Source: Duke University

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