A new peer-reviewed study from researchers at the University of Toronto has found that homes with TVs had higher levels of two toxic flame retardant chemicals. This adds to existing evidence that when companies put these chemicals into the TVs they sell, the sets shed them into our homes. Then, children and adults alike are exposed to the chemicals through normal hand-to-mouth activity.
It underscores the need for major electronics retailers like Best Buy and Amazon to prevent harm and ban these chemicals in TVs.
In the study, researchers found that median levels of deca-BDE and DBDPE in household dust were three and four times higher, respectively, in homes with one or more TVs, compared to homes with none. In our recent investigation Toxic TV Binge, we found both of these organohalogen flame retardant chemicals in the plastic casings of streaming TVs sold at Best Buy, and DBDPE in TVs from Amazon.
Organohalogen flame retardants are persistent chemicals linked to a variety of health concerns, including thyroid disruption, cancer, and learning deficits.
The new study also found flame retardants used in TVs on hands and cell phones. Organohalogen flame retardants appear to be moving from TVs to our hands to cell phones, which then act as secondary sources of exposure. Frequent hand-washing can help to reduce exposure, but the only real solution is for retailers and brands to stop putting them in electronics and for governments to enact bans.
Research has shown that TVs can be made with safer alternatives and innovative material design changes can drive change. But companies continue to use these chemicals—despite recent government action.
In 2017, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warned electronics manufacturers and retailers to “eliminate the use” of halogenated flame retardants in plastic casings. In 2019, the European Union passed a ban on all organohalogen flame retardants in electronics casings that will take effect in 2021. And in May 2020, the Washington State Department of Ecology named organohalogen and other toxic flame retardants in electronics casings as a priority for action under the state’s Safer Products for Washington Act.
This new study highlights the urgent need for action by TV retailers and brands. We continue to call on Best Buy, Amazon, and other retailers to protect their customers by making safer TVs without hazardous flame retardants.
We also recently sent letters to a dozen major television brands, such as Hisense, LG, Samsung, and SONY, urging them to ban these toxic flame retardants in televisions. For example, see our letter to Samsung. We will soon publish a follow-up blog post summarizing the responses (and unfortunately lack of responses) we received from the TV brands. So, please stay tuned!