The Consumer Product Safety Commission has been notified that laboratory experiments conducted under the National Science foundation-Research Applied to National Needs (NSF-RANN) sponsorship at the University of Utah's Flammability Research Center have shown that some combustion products can cause severe toxicological effects involving the central nervous system (CNS), resulting in rapid death of test animals.
These combustion experiments involved rigid polyurethane foams which were treated with reactive and additive fire retardants containing phosphorus.
An industrial manufacturer has reproduced the University of Utah animal experiments and obtained similar abnormal physiological effects where certain rigid polyurethane foam systems containing propoxylated adducts of trimethylolpropane and phosphorus containing flame retardants were pyrolyzed.
The toxic pyrolysis by-product has been identified by the University of Utah research group as a 4-alkyl bicyclic phosphorus ester. This compound's activity was confirmed by additional biological tests. However, the mechanism of action by which toxicity occurs has not been elucidated.
On the basis of the very limited amount of information currently available, it is impossible for the Commission's technical staff to assess at this time the exact nature: of the toxicity problem, the types of products involved, the number of units and the exact circumstances that would constitute a hazardous situation under actual conditions of exposure. The circumstances referred to above are, strictly speaking, laboratory experiments which are, by most criteria, highly maximized exposures. Additional studies will have to be initiated in order to address the scope of the problem.
However, the Commission requires, through its statutory authority in administering the Flammable Fabrics Act, that certain flammability tests are to be performed on consumer products. The Agency recognizes that technical personnel performing such tests may be inadvertently exposed to combustion products and, therefore, may be at some risk.
Because of the nature of the potential hazard outlined above, the Agency feels that all laboratory personnel engaged in flammability testing should be informed of the situation and urged to adopt certain safety measures. For these reasons, the Commission is recommending the following precautions:
1. Personnel, routinely exposed to combustion by- products from flammability testing, should wear a positive-pressure, air supply respirator.
2. Others, who may have only occasional exposure to advised to use a chemical cartridge, full-face respirator, with an acid gas, organic vapor, and particulate filter.
3. No studies should be conducted outside of a hood or properly ventilated area.
4. The test facility should be so ventilated that air circulation and exhaust systems remove the smoke gases from the immediate test area. The exhaust system should not contaminate any other air conditioning system in the immediate vicinity.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.
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