Furniture and textiles are often coated with flame-retardants - chemicals that help products meet fire safety standards. These chemicals have been previously confirmed toxic, but a new study has revealed what happens when they come into contact with humans - and it isn't pretty.

To investigate the affect of flame-retardants on humans, researchers from the Silent Spring Institute in the US tested the urine samples of 16 California residents. The team detected biomarkers of six chemicals that are commonly found in flame-retardants, including a carcinogen called TCEP that's never before been seen in humans. Not only can TCEP increase the risk of a person developing cancerous tumours, it can also harm the nervous and reproductive systems - and it was found in 75 percent of the participants. 

The team also detected another carcinogen called TDCIPP. This chemical was banned from children's pyjamas in the 1970's, but it's still being added to furniture.

"We found that several toxic flame-retardants are in people's bodies," said Robin Dodson, environmental scientist and lead researcher, in a press release. "When you sit on your couch, you want to relax, not get exposed to chemicals that may cause cancer. Some flame-retardants have been targeted for phase out, but unfortunately there are others that have largely been under the radar."

But it's not all bad news. You can reduce your exposure to these nasty chemicals by opting to buy furniture free of toxic flame-retardants. The other thing that the team suggests is to try and keep your home dust-free, as these chemicals love flying into the air and collecting in dust particles.

The findings are published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Source: Silent Spring Institute