Carcinogenic flame retardant used in cars

Carcinogenic flame retardant used in cars

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Higher risk of cancer from driving in a car?

If you travel a lot by car, you seem to be at increased risk of cancer or reproductive harm. Car seats can contain a chemical flame retardant, which can have dangerous consequences for our health.

The latest research by the University of California, Riverside and Duke University found that the more you drive a car, the more you are exposed to a chemical flame retardant known to be carcinogenic. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Environment International".

Car seats contain carcinogenic chemical flame retardants

The use of our car seems to expose us to particular health risks from our car seats. These contain a chemical flame retardant that can trigger cancer.

In the car there is not only a danger from external air pollutants

While much research into automotive pollution focuses on external air pollutants entering the vehicle interior, the current study shows that chemicals that leak from inside your car are also of concern.

Increased exposure occurs quickly

The chemical, known as TDCIPP or chlorinated Tris, is found widely in car seat foams. The study shows that car seats are a source of TDCIPP exposure. The researchers also found that commuting to work in less than a week resulted in increased exposure to this chemical. The team was surprised to find a significant concentration in such a short time.

The toxicity of organophosphate esters has been investigated since 2011

Over the past decade, it has been studied how different chemicals affect early development. Since 2011, the toxicity of a newer class of flame retardants, the so-called organophosphate esters, has been investigated on the model of zebrafish and human cells.

Organophosphate esters replace older flame retardant chemicals

Little is known about the toxicity of these organophosphate esters (TDCIPP is one of them), but they have replaced older flame retardant chemicals that last longer in the environment and take longer to metabolize.

TDCIPP influences the development of embryos

TDCIPP was found to hinder the normal development of an embryo. Other studies have shown a strong link between TDCIPP and infertility in women undergoing fertility treatment.

Impact tested on commuters

Since it is known that the use of chemicals is still widespread, the researchers wanted to find out whether commuting to work increases exposure. So investigations were carried out on around 90 people, who all oscillated between 15 minutes and more than two hours a day. The participants received silicone wristbands that they should wear continuously for five days.

Why silicone bracelets?

The molecular structure of silicone makes it ideal for trapping air pollutants. As TDCIPP is not chemically bound to the foam, it is released over time and is deposited in dust, which is then inhaled.

Longer periods in the car led to greater exposure

Several organophosphate esters were tested, but TDCIPP was the only one that showed a strong positive association with the commute time. The longer the participants spent time in their vehicle, the higher the exposure to TDCIPP. The researchers assume that the exposure came from inhaling dust.

More research is needed

In the future, the research team would like to repeat the study with a larger group of people of different ages. It will also examine how commuters can be protected from this and other toxic compounds.

Clean the interior of your car regularly

As long as no more specific methods for reducing pollutant pollution can be identified, the team suggests that the interior of vehicles is frequently dusted. Until safer alternatives can be identified, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of TDCIPP on commuters.

Information about long-term exposure should be collected

Since such a strong impact was found after only five days, it would be important to find out how long-term exposure affects people. Because many people drive to work in the car for most weeks of the year for decades. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Aalekhya Reddam, George Tait, Nicholas Herkert, Stephanie C. Hammel, Heather M. Stapleton et al .: Longer commutes are associated with increased human exposure to tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate, in Environment International (published Volume 136, March 2020), Environment International

Video: INTERACTIVE INVESTIGATION: Viewers Prompt 1st Flame-Retardant-Free Car Seat (September 2022).


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