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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Finds Gymnasts Exposed to Toxic Flame-retardant Chemicals

A new study published online in the journal Environment International, co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers, reports that popular gymnastics training equipment contains mixtures of flame-retardant chemicals that have been linked to increased risks of ADHD, cancer, and brain development delays.

The study found higher levels of those chemicals in gymnasts’ urine, indicating that gymnastics-training — specifically, pit cubes found in foam pits — are a source of exposure to toxic flame retardants.

“Combined with our previous research, these findings indicate that gyms can contain high levels of mixtures of different flame retardants, and that these chemicals are entering gymnasts’ bodies,” said lead author Dr. Courtney Carignan, who conducted the bulk of the research as a PhD candidate at SPH. “This is particularly concerning for competitive gymnasts and coaches who spend a lot of time in the gym.”

The most common flame retardant found was TPHP, a suspected developmental disrupter. There was a 50 percent increase in the average level of urinary metabolite of TPHP in the gymnasts’ urine collected after practice, compared to before practice.In rodent studies, prenatal exposure to TPHP has been found to interfere with bone-cell development in offspring.

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