Intervention to reduce gymnast exposure to flame retardants from pit foam: A case study.
Gymnasts can have high exposures to flame retardants (FRs), which are used in gymnastics safety equipment such as the loose foam pit. Therefore, we aimed to reduce gymnast exposure to FRs by replacing the foam in the pit using foam free of additive FR and measuring personal exposure during practice using hand-wipes. To assure maintenance of fire safety we first conducted a flammability study and facilitated a fire inspection for our partner gym. The FR-treated cubes had similar heat release rates to the non-FR treated cubes, required a 11 cm larger flame size applied for 6 s longer to ignite, and took 4 min longer to reach peak flame height. Based on these findings and the presence of other fire safety measures including smoke detectors and a sprinkler system, the local fire and building departments approved replacement of the foam pit with FR-free foam. We then replaced foam in the gym's pit, verified it was free of any additive FRs, and quantified common halogenated and organophosphate FRs on hand-wipes collected from ten collegiate gymnasts before and after practice, pre- and post-intervention. We observed a 5-fold decline in the median mass of FRs found in pit foam that accumulated on hand-wipes during practice among gymnasts who used the foam pit (p = 0.02), indicating that replacing the foam in a pit using materials free of FRs can reduce gymnast exposure to these chemicals during practice.
Dembsey, NA; Brokaw, FM; Stapleton, HM; Dodson, RE; Onasch, J; Jazan, E; Carignan, CC
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