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Berkeley, CA, United States

Shaw S.D.,Marine Environmental Research Institute | Blum A.,University of California at Berkeley | Weber R.,Orebro University | Weber R.,POPs Environmental Consulting | And 8 more authors.
Reviews on Environmental Health | Year: 2010

Since the 1970s, an increasing number of regulations have expanded the use of brominated and chlorinated flame retardants. Many of these chemicals are now recognized as global contaminants and are associated with adverse health effects in animals and humans, including endocrine and thyroid disruption, immunotoxicky, reproductive toxicity, cancer, and adverse effects on fetal and child development and neurologic function. Some flame retardants such as poly brominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been banned or voluntarily phased out by manufacturers because of their environmental persistence and toxicity, only to be replaced by other organohalogens of unknown toxicity. Despite restrictions on further production in some countries, consumer products previously treated with banned retardants are still in use and continue to release toxic chemicals into the environment, and the worldwide use of organohalogen retardants continues to increase. This paper examines major uses and known toxic effects of commonly-used organohalogen flame retardants, replacements for those that have been phased out, their combustion by-products, and their effectiveness at reducing fire hazard. Policy and other solutions to maintain fire safety while reducing toxicity are suggested. The major conclusions are: (1) Flammability regulations can cause greater adverse environmental and health impacts than fire safety benefits. (2) The current options for end-of-life disposal of products treated with organohalogens retardants are problematic. (3) Life-cycle analyses evaluating benefits and risks should consider the health and environmental effects of the chemicals, as well as their fire safety impacts. (4) Most fire deaths and most fire injuries result from inhaling carbon monoxide, irritant gases, and soot. The incorporation of organohalogens can increase the yield of mese toxic by-products during combustion. (5) Fire-safe cigarettes, fire-safe candles, child-resistant lighters, sprinklers, and smoke detectors can prevent fires without the potential adverse effects of flame retardant chemicals. (6) Alternatives to organohalogen flame retardant chemicals include using less flammable materials, design changes, and safer chemicals. To date, before evaluating their health and environmental impacts, many flame retardant chemicals have been produced and used, resulting in high levels of human exposure. As a growing literature continues to find adverse impacts from such chemicals, a more systematic approach to their regulation is needed. Before implementing new flammability standards, decision-makers should evaluate the potential fire safety benefit versus the health and environmental impacts of the chemicals, materials, or technologies likely to be used to meet the standard. Reducing the use of toxic or untested flame retardant chemicals in consumer products can protect human and animal health and the global environment without compromising fire safety. © 2010 Freund Publishing House, Limited. Source

Yi-Balan S.A.,University of California at Berkeley | Yi-Balan S.A.,Green Science Policy Institute | Amundson R.,University of California at Berkeley | Buss H.L.,University of Bristol
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta | Year: 2014

We examined the terrestrial sulfur (S) cycle in the wet tropical Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF), Puerto Rico. In two previously instrumented watersheds (Icacos and Bisley), chemical and isotopic measurements of carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and S were used to explore the inputs, in-soil processing, and losses of S through comparison to the N cycle. Additionally, the impact of soil forming factors (particularly climate, organisms, topography and parent material) on S cycling in this system was considered. Atmospheric inputs (δ34S values of 16.1±2.8‰), from a mixture of marine and anthropogenic sources, delivered an estimated 2.2g S/(m2yr) at Icacos, and 1.8g S/(m2yr) at Bisley. Bedrock N and S inputs to soil were minimal. We estimated a hydrologic export of 1.7±0.1g S/(m2yr) at Icacos, and 2.5±0.2g S/(m2yr) at Bisley. Stream baseflow S isotope data revealed significant bedrock S in the hydrologic export at Bisley (with a distinctive δ34S values of 1.6±0.7‰), but not at Icacos. Pore water data supported the co-occurrence of at least three major biological S-fractionating processes in these soils: plant uptake, oxidative degradation of organic S and bacterial sulfate reduction. The rates and relative importance of these processes varied in time and space. Vegetation litter was 3-5‰ depleted in 34S compared to the average pore water, providing evidence for fractionation during uptake and assimilation. Out of all abiotic soil forming factors, climate, especially the high rainfall, was the main driver of S biogeochemistry in the LEF by dictating the types and rates of processes. Topography appeared to impact S cycling by influencing redox conditions: C, N and S content decrease downslope at all sites, and the Bisley lower slope showed strongest evidence of bacterial sulfate reduction. Parent material type did not impact the soil S cycle significantly. To compare the fate of S and N in the soil, we used an advection model to describe the isotopic fractionation of total S and N associated with downward movement of organic matter in both dissolved and solid fractions. This model worked well for N, but the assumption of a constant fractionation factor α with depth failed to describe S transformations. This result revealed a fundamental difference between N and S cycling in these soils, indicating an apparent greater sensitivity of S isotopes to fluctuating redox conditions. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Babrauskas V.,Fire Science and Technology Inc. | Lucas D.,Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Eisenberg D.,Development Center for Appropriate Technology | Singla V.,Green Science Policy Institute | And 3 more authors.
Building Research and Information | Year: 2012

US building codes balance the consideration of hazards to public safety, health and general welfare. Current codes require foam plastic insulation materials to have both protection by a thermal barrier and compliance with Steiner Tunnel test requirements. The Steiner Tunnel test is met by adding flame-retardant chemicals to the foam. Studies demonstrate that the Steiner Tunnel test does not give reliable fire safety results for foam plastic insulations. Foams that meet the Steiner Tunnel test still pose a fire hazard if used without a code-mandated thermal barrier. Insulations protected by a thermal barrier are fire safe and the use of flame retardants does not provide any additional benefit. Evidence is examined of the health and ecological impacts from the added flame-retardant chemicals. Changing the building codes could prevent health and environmental harm from the toxicity of these substances without a reduction in fire safety. Plastic foam insulations that are protected by a thermal barrier should be exempted from the Steiner Tunnel test and the need to use flame retardants. This change would align US codes with code regulations in Sweden and Norway and ensure the fire safety as well as improve health and environmental impacts. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC. Source

Babrauskas V.,Fire Science and Technology Inc. | Blum A.,University of California at Berkeley | Blum A.,Green Science Policy Institute | Daley R.,Green Science Policy Institute | Birnbaum L.,U.S. National Institutes of Health
Fire Safety Science | Year: 2011

The extensive use of chemical flame retardants to meet the California Furniture Flammability Standard Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) [1] provides an example of the need for consideration of environmental impacts of fire safety interventions before they are implemented. Flame retardants are currently being used in products with high levels of human exposure without adequate toxicological testing. For example, flame retardants commercially used to meet TB117 have been found to have negative impacts upon human, animal, and environmental health [2] and notably, the TB117 standard has not been shown to have a measurable fire safety benefit. Both the unintended adverse impacts and the lack of fire safety benefits of California TB117 are discussed in detail. © 2011 INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR FIRE SAFETY SCIENCE. Source

Maley A.M.,Hope College | Falk K.A.,Hope College | Hoover L.,Hope College | Earlywine E.B.,Hope College | And 5 more authors.
Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms | Year: 2015

A novel application of particle-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) has been developed to detect the presence of chlorinated and brominated flame retardant chemicals in polyurethane foams. Traditional Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) methods for the detection and identification of halogenated flame retardants in foams require extensive sample preparation and data acquisition time. The elemental analysis of the halogens in polyurethane foam performed by PIXE offers the opportunity to identify the presence of halogenated flame retardants in a fraction of the time and sample preparation cost. Through comparative GC-MS and PIXE analysis of 215 foam samples, excellent agreement between the two methods was obtained. These results suggest that PIXE could be an ideal rapid screening method for the presence of chlorinated and brominated flame retardants in polyurethane foams. © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Source

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