By analyzing phosphate biomarkers in the participants' urine - known as dialkyl or diaryl phosphates (DAPs) - the team was able to identify the presence of phosphates in their body. A previous study showed how these DAPs are present in household dust, leading the researchers to investigate whether they are present in urine.
Results of the analysis revealed that all participants had traces of one or more of the following phosphates in their urine: bis-(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (BDCIPP), tris-(1,3-dichloro-isopropyl) phosphate (TDCIPP) and bis-(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (BCEP). All of these are deemed harmful to human health.
"We found that several toxic flame retardants are in people's bodies. When you sit on your couch, you want to relax, not get exposed to chemicals that may cause cancer," says Dodson.
The researchers say they were surprised to find that almost all participants had traces of TDCIPP in their urine, considering that it had stopped being used in children's pajamas in the 1970s due to the potential harm it may pose to human health.