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The Air We Breathe

We recruited 10 prominent Washington residents—elected officials, members of the media, a firefighter, a social services leader, and environmental experts—and asked them to take a personal air sample to measure the flame retardants in the air they breathe.

The results of this testing show us we can’t avoid exposure to dangerous flame retardants: we take them in through life’s most basic act, breathing.

The Testing Results

  • Toxic flame retardants were in each of the ten participants’ air samples.
  • Even though they are phased out, we are still breathing the neurotoxic PBDE flame retardants: they were in every air sample.
  • Cancer-causing chlorinated Tris flame retardants were found in the highest concentration, and every participant’s sample indicated exposure to at least one.
  • The PBDE replacement chemicals found in the Firemaster flame retardant (known as TBB and TBPH) were in half of the personal air samples.
This chart shows the test results for each participant.

Download a PDF of the chart.

NEXT: What Does It Mean To Be Breathing Toxic Flame Retardants?


1. Chen, A.; Yolton, K.; Rauch, S.; Webster, G.; Hornung, R.; Sjödin, A.; Dietrich, K.; Lanphear, B., Prenatal polybrominated diphenyl ether exposures and neurodevelopment in U.S. children through 5 years of age: the HOME study. Environ Health Perspect 2014, 122, (8), 856-862.

2. Bradman, A.; Castorina, R.; Gaspar, F.; Nishioka, M.; Colón, M.; Weathers, W.; Egeghy, P.; Maddalena, R.; Williams, J.; Jenkins, P.; McKone, T., Flame retardant exposures in California early childhood education environments. Chemosphere 2014, 116, 61-66.