Harmful flame retardants (chemicals added to materials such as TV, textiles and plastics) may be lurking on your hands and cell phone, said a study published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters.
The new study has shown that halogenated flame retardants added to plastic TV cases can move from the TV to air and dust in the room and then to hands and then get transferred to mobiles and all other electronic equipment. Halogenated flame retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers are already known to pose a higher risk to children. A study has revealed that exposure to these chemicals can lead to lower IQ in children and also bring in behavioural problems.
Noting that viruses transfer between surfaces and hands, co-author of the study Miriam Diamond said that their study showed how toxic chemicals like flame retardants did the same. He said that this was one reason why everyone should wash hands often. Miriam Diamond is Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Toronto.
The researchers came across higher levels of halogenated flame retardants, organophosphate flame retardants and phthalate plasticizers on the cell phones and other hand held electronic devices such as tablets. This was not much seen in non hand-held devices such as desktop computers. They found higher levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which are banned for a long time, on new mobiles than on the surfaces of older desktop computers.
How Televisions are carriers of the flame retardants? The answer to this traces back to 1970s when cathode ray tubes of TVs started to be manufactured. In the technology, cathode ray tube was warmed so that the TV would immediately project an image when turned on. This resulted in the blowing of several TV sets in 1970s. This led to adding of flame retardants to the outside casings of the TVs.
The same levels of flame retardants continued to be used even though the threat was minimised now. The researchers noted that flame retardants do not bond to the cases and escape over time to contaminate the environment. The researchers maintained that the only way to escape such hazardous toxins is to wash the hands frequently as was practised now at the time of Coronavirus pandemic.
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