NIOSH: Workers at Recycling Facility Exposed to High Levels of Flame Retardants
Sampling conducted by NIOSH investigators at an electronics recycling facility revealed that exposures to certain flame retardants were significantly higher than exposures found in the general population, according to a report recently published on the agency’s website. The investigation was conducted as part of NIOSH’s Health Hazard Evaluation program. NIOSH personnel visited the facility in March and August of 2015 at the request of the employer, who was concerned about workers’ exposures to metals and flame retardants. Investigators collected surface, hand wipe, and air samples for 30 metals and 24 flame retardants. The hand wipe samples established that employees’ exposures to four flame retardants—decabromodiphenyl ether, or BDE-209; Tris(phenyl) phosphate, or TPHP; Tris(2-chloroisopropyl) phosphate, or TCIPP; and Tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate, or TDCIPP—were “substantially higher than levels found in the general population,” according to the HHE report. Among employees who worked in the facility’s shredding and sorting area, the geometric mean TPHP level of 2,766 nanograms was approximately 45 times higher than was found in a 2015 study of adults in the general population. Air samples also revealed significantly higher concentrations of BDE-209 at the facility than have been found in similar facilities and in non-industrial settings. Some studies have associated exposures to flame retardants with low birth weight, delayed motor skills, decreased IQ, and cancer. Changes in reproductive hormone levels in males and changes in fertility in women have also been associated with flame retardants exposures. For more information about the NIOSH investigation, read the report as a PDF on the agency’s website.