Cancer in your car? Research shows that cars are polluted with carcinogens | Health

Cancer in your car?  Research shows that cars are polluted with carcinogens |  Health


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By Stephen Beech via SWNS

Motorists breathe in cancer-causing chemicals when they sit in their cars, new research warns.

They are at risk of breathing potential carcinogens because the air in almost all vehicles is ‘polluted’ with harmful flame retardants – including substances known or suspected to cause cancer, US scientists say.

Automakers are adding the chemicals to seat foam and other materials to meet an “outdated” flammability standard with no proven fire safety benefit, according to the study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Lead author Dr. Rebecca Hoehn, from Duke University, said: “Our research has shown that interior materials release harmful chemicals into the cabin air of our cars.

“Given that the average driver spends about an hour in the car every day, this is a significant public health problem.

“It is particularly concerning for drivers traveling longer distances and for child passengers, who breathe more air than adults.”

The research team discovered flame retardants in the cabins of 101 cars, model year 2015 or newer, from across the United States.


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They found that 99 percent of the cars contained tris(1-chloro-isopropyl) phosphate (TCIPP), a flame retardant under investigation by the U.S. National Toxicology Program as a potential carcinogen.

Other organophosphate ester flame retardants were also present in most cars, including tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TDCIPP) and tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), two California Proposition 65 carcinogens.

These and other flame retardants are also linked to neurological and reproductive damage, scientists say.

About half of the cars were tested in both summer and winter.

Warmer weather has been associated with higher concentrations of flame retardants, because “outgassing” of interior components such as seat foam increases at higher temperatures. And vehicle interiors can reach temperatures of up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65.5 Celsius).

The research team also analyzed seat foam samples from 51 of the cars in the study.

Those that contained the suspected carcinogen TCIPP in their foam tended to have higher concentrations of TCIPP in their air, confirming foam as a source of the flame retardant in cabin air.

Flame retardants have been added to the seat foam to meet the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 302, which was first introduced in the 1970s and has remained unchanged since then.

Patrick Morrison, who oversees the health and safety of 350,000 U.S. and Canadian firefighters at the International Association of Fire Fighters, said: “Firefighters are concerned that flame retardants are contributing to their very high cancer rates.


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“Filling products with these harmful chemicals does little to prevent fires in most applications, but instead makes the fires smokier and more toxic to victims, and especially to first responders.

“I urge NHTSA to update their flammability standard to meet compliance without flame retardant chemicals in vehicles.”

Such an update would mirror changes in California’s flammability standard for furniture and baby products, which was updated a decade ago to a modern standard met without flame retardants.

The update maintained or even modestly increased the fire safety of furniture and led to lower levels of flame retardants in American homes.

Previous studies have shown that the average American child has lost three to five IQ points from exposure to a flame retardant used in cars and furniture.

A recent research paper also estimated that those with the highest levels of this flame retardant in their blood were about four times as likely to die from cancer, compared to people with the lowest levels.

Study co-author Dr Lydia Jahl, from the Green Science Policy Institute, said: “You may be able to reduce your exposure to flame retardants in your car by opening your windows and parking in the shade.

“But what is really needed is to reduce the amount of flame retardants added to cars in the first place.”

She added: “Commuting to work should not pose a risk of cancer, and children should not inhale chemicals that could damage their brains on the way to school.”