During the study, researchers found that children living in homes where sofas contained flame-retardant polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in its foam have six times higher concentration of PBDEs in their tested blood serum. It should be noted that exposure to PBDE is known for triggering various disorders including neurodevelopmental delays, thyroid disruption, obesity, and cancer.
When it comes to vinyl flooring, children who live in the houses that have used this material were found to have concentrations of benzyl butyl phthalate metabolite in their urine, a 15 times higher concentration when compared to children who lived in homes with non-vinyl flooring.
"SVOCs are widely used in electronics, furniture, and building materials and can be detected in nearly all indoor environments. Human exposure to them is widespread, particularly for young children who spend most of their time indoors and have greater exposure to chemicals found in household dust. Nonetheless, there has been little research on the relative contribution of specific products and materials to children's overall exposure to SVOCs," said Heather Stapleton, an environmental chemist at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment, and the lead author of the study.
In 2014, Stapleton and colleagues from Duke, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and Boston University began a three-year study of in-home exposures to SVOCs among 203 children from 190 families. The team analyzed samples of indoor air, indoor dust and foam collected from furniture in each of the children's homes, along with a handwipe sample, urine and blood from each child.
The team quantified 44 biomarkers of exposure to phthalates, organophosphate esters, brominated flame retardants, parabens, phenols, antibacterial agents and perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for the study.
"Our primary goal was to investigate links between specific products and children's exposures, and to determine how the exposure happened -- was it through breathing, skin contact or inadvertent dust inhalation," Stapleton said.
Stapleton also added that further researches should be carried out to determine how these toxic chemicals reached the body of these children.