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Flame retardant in office furniture may pose health risk

Category: Cancer Detection and Tumor Markers

Getting regular lab tests to check for a host of diseases isn't just a good idea for people who already feel sick. Everyone should consider getting blood tests to make sure they are in good health, since people might be surprised to know the number of seemingly harmless things in their life that could pose a risk. For example, researchers from Boston University Medical Center have found a flame retardant that was removed from children's pajamas 30 years ago is present in polyurethane foam found in many office environments. Furthermore, this chemical has been named as a possible carcinogen.

Researchers examined 31 adults to come to their conclusions, and discovered that the chemical found in this flame retardant - known as TDCPP - was found in 99 percent of dust samples taken from the homes, vehicles and offices of the participants.

Potentially dangerous
According to the scientists, TDCPP is an additive to polyurethane foam used in upholstered furniture and is often found in dust. In 2011 California added TDCPP to its list of chemicals that cause cancer. Researchers found concentrations of this chemical in the urine of study participants.

Along with being a possible carcinogen, studies have also suggested that TDCPP may be neurotoxic. Furthermore, one study found that it may also reduce semen quality and free thyroxine in men, which may have implications for fertility and thyroid function.

This research was conducted on office workers in Boston. and researchers speculated that the high amount of TDCPP found in office furniture may be the result of requirements by the City of Boston that office furniture meet California fire retardant standards. This same standard is not required for residential furniture. California has proposed legislation that could reduce the need for flame retardant chemicals in furniture, potentially reducing the spread of TDCPP.

"It is currently very difficult to avoid flame retardants. Hopefully, better options will become available in the near future," said Courtney Carignan, a doctoral candidate in environmental health who co-authored the study. "Currently, the best advice we have for people is to wash your hands, especially before eating. Dust control, good ventilation and air purifiers may also be useful for reducing personal exposure."

Stay healthy in the workplace
Potentially harmful chemicals aren't the only things that pose a health threat in the office. People also run the risk of catching or spreading disease-causing germs in the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some recommendations for how people can avoid spreading germs in the office. For example, the CDC stresses that people should stay home from work when they are sick to avoid passing their illness on to others. While some individuals may want to come in even when they are sick to show their commitment to their job, their hard work may not be appreciated so much if they make all of their coworkers ill.

Also, it's important for people to cover their mouths with a tissue or handkerchief when they cough of sneeze, to keep germs from getting everywhere. When people sneeze into their hands and then touch their keyboards and the office coffee maker, then everyone else who touches these surfaces may end up becoming sick as well. Carrying a small package of tissues is one very simple way to reduce the spread of germs, and it's also nice for people to not have to rush to find napkins or use rough paper towels to blow their nose.

Finally, the CDC states that people can protect themselves and those around them by getting a flu vaccine each year.

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