Women scientists characterize human exposure to flame retardants used on backpacking tents!

Have you ever wondered what chemicals you might be exposed to by setting up and spending time inside your tent on a backpacking trip?  Well, these five women scientists asked that very question!

Five female scientists from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina recently published a scientific article in Environmental Science and Technology entitled, Characterizing Flame Retardant Applications and Potential Human Exposure in Backpacking Tents.

Abstract ImageFlame retardant (FR) chemicals are applied to products to meet flammability standards; however, exposure to some additive FRs has been shown to be associated with adverse health effects. Previous research on FR exposure has primarily focused on chemicals applied to furniture and electronics; however, camping tents sold in the United States, which often meet flammability standard CPAI-84, remain largely unstudied in regards to their chemical treatments. In this study, FRs from five brands of CPAI-84-compliant, two-person backpacking tents were measured and potential exposure was assessed. Dermal and inhalation exposure levels were assessed by collecting hand wipes from 20 volunteers before and after tent setup and by using active air samplers placed inside assembled tents, respectively. Organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) were the most commonly detected FR in the tent materials and included triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl)phosphate (TDCIPP) and tris(2-chloroethyl)phosphate (TCEP). Levels of OPFRS measured on hand wipes were significantly higher post-tent setup compared to pre setup, and in the case of TDCIPP, levels were 29 times higher post setup. OPFRs were also detected at measurable concentrations in the air inside of treated tents. Significant, positive correlations were found between FR levels in treated textiles and measures of dermal and inhalation exposure. These results demonstrate that dermal exposure to FRs occurs from handling camping tents and that inhalation exposure will likely occur while inside a tent.


Check out the full journal article here.

See more research performed by the Stapleton Group at Duke here.