Study pegs laundry water as flame retardant source

By on November 7, 2014

A new study suggests washing machines may be a major source of flame retardants in the water supply, according to a report from Chemical & Engineering News.

Researchers Erika D. Schreder of The Washington Toxics Coalition and Mark J. La Guardia of the College of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science did the laundry of 20 households and analyzed the chemicals in the wash water after agitation. They found 21 flame retardants in nearby household dust and 18 that were also present in the wash water.

Flame retardants, which cause hormone disruption, cancer, and neurotoxicity, originate as dust in the air and collect on people’s clothes. When washed, the clothes release flame retardants directly into the water supply. When Schreder and LaGuardia projected the amount of the chemicals in post-wash water expelled into the environment based on their experimental results, they found the projected levels matched the levels found in the environment very closely, suggesting that laundry wastewater is the major source of flame retardants in the environment.

Top image: Washing machines could be a source of flame retardants working their way through the water supply. (Credit: Reni Fajarwati, via Wikimedia Commons)

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