TCEP is toxic flame retardant added to polyurethane foam and is found in furniture and baby products, as well as some plastics and carpet backing. In a 2002 study examining stream contaminants near industrial facilities, TCEP was one of the most common.
TCEP is a foam additive that over time escapes from the foam of furniture and sticks to house dust. The dust subsequently lands on household surfaces, including toys and food, and is eventually ingested. Young children are the most likely to be exposed because of their tendency to put toys and their hands into their mouths.
Baby products containing TCEP:
- Nursing pillows
- Portable cribs
- Baby carriers
California State lists TCEP as a carcinogen, and animal studies have also found that it causes reproductive effects and neurotoxicity. The European Union has designated the chemical as a substance of very high concern because of evidence it could impair fertility.
Some manufacturers use naturally fire-retardant materials, non-chemical flame retardancy measures such as barriers, or use least-toxic chemicals. Government agencies should allow only the least toxic chemicals to be used, and adopt sensible flammability standards.
New York State has banned TCEP in products for children under three. The ban goes into effect December 1, 2013.
The easiest way to reduce exposure to TCEP is to avoid furniture and baby products with polyurethane foam, and seek alternatives containing cotton, wool or polyester. For products that do contain foam, ask the manufacturer whether it contains added flame retardants such as TCEP.