High Levels Of Potentially Cancer-Causing Chemicals Found In Vehicle Cabin Air, Study Finds

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Washington D.C., United States of America (USA)

Researchers identified seat foam as the primary source of cancer-causing compounds in the cabin air. (Representative image/Reuters)

Discover the alarming findings on car air quality in a recent study, revealing cancer-causing chemicals present in vehicle cabins

The air inside our cars might not be as clean as we think, according to an alarming new study by a Washington-based science journal. In a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, researchers found high levels of flame retardant chemicals in the cabin air of personal vehicles, raising concerns about potential health risks.

The study, conducted by a team of scientists, focused on organophosphate esters (OPEs), commonly used as flame retardants in vehicle foam. These chemicals, including one called TCIPP, were found in 99% of the vehicles tested. “The frequent detection of TCIPP in vehicles is particularly concerning given that a 2023 United States National Toxicology Report found evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats and mice exposed to TCIPP,” according to the study.

One of the key findings of the study titled “Flame Retardant Exposure in Vehicles Is Influenced by Use in Seat Foam and Temperature” was the widespread presence of TCIPP, which has been linked to cancer in animal studies. This raises worries about the possible health effects of breathing in these chemicals while driving or riding in a car.

US-based researchers also discovered that the release of flame retardants from vehicle foam is influenced by temperature. This means that when the weather is hot, more of these chemicals could be released into the air inside the car. “Our results suggest that personal vehicles are an important microenvironment to consider for understanding human exposure to FRs,” the study says.

The study suggests that people who spend a lot of time in their cars, like commuters or those who drive for work, could be at higher risk of exposure to these chemicals. Children, who breathe more air per kilogram of body weight than adults, may be especially vulnerable. The findings also indicate that people living in warmer climates might face greater exposure to flame retardants, as higher temperatures can lead to increased release of these chemicals from vehicle foam.

The study has raised questions about the safety regulations that govern the use of flame retardants in vehicle interiors. Currently, regulations like FMVSS 302 drive the use of these chemicals, but the study suggests that a reevaluation of these regulations may be necessary. Experts say that reducing the amount of flame retardants added to vehicle interiors could help to lower exposure levels.

This could involve exploring alternative fire safety measures that are less harmful to human health. “Given that FMVSS 302 continues to drive the use of FRs in vehicles, more information is needed to understand the true risks and benefits of their use,” the study says.

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