Flame retardants in the sky

High levels of flame retardants recorded on commercial airliners

Flight attendants, pilots and cleaning crews of commercial airliners may be exposed to high levels of flame retardants, a study finds.

Researchers from Duke University analyzed dust collected from 19 commercial airliners, finding traces of flame retardants in all the planes and extremely high levels of some chemicals, according to Environmental Health News. Typical airline passengers are likely not at risk, but employees who spend long shifts in the air could face significant exposure. Female flight attendants have a 29 percent higher risk of all cancers (and are at 11 times greater risk of melanoma) than the general public, though flame retardants have not been conclusively linked to this phenomenon.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires planes to pass strict fire-safety tests. Items likely to contain brominated flame retardants include seats, carpets, walls, overhead bins and pillows.