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Some Gymnastics Equipment Harbors Dangerous Chemicals

Some Gymnastics Equipment Harbors Dangerous Chemicals
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Wednesday, 27 July 2016 12:38 PM

As the summer Olympics get underway, a new study is reporting that popular gymnastics training equipment harbors dangerous flame-retardant chemicals linked to increased risks of serious health threats.

Higher levels of these chemicals, which have been linked to ADHD, cancer, and brain development delays, have been found in gymnasts’ urine, indicating their training environment -- specifically, pit cubes found in foam pits -- are a source of exposure to toxic flame-retardants, the study says.

Chemical flame-retardants are well known for their use in the foam of upholstered furniture. They are widely known to be toxic to human health, with previous scientific studies reporting on myriad harmful effects of exposure, especially to the fragile developing brains of babies. Further, research has found that the use of these flame-retardants in furniture provides no significant fire-safety benefit, according to the study, which appears in the journal Environment International.

While prior studies have found high levels of such retardants in the air and dust of gyms, the new study, conducted by the Boston University School of Public Health, analyzed foam pits in 11 U.S. gyms, and found that 89 percent of pit cubes sampled contained flame-retardants. Foam pits routinely are used to safely teach new skills.

In addition, the study found that exposures among a team of 11 collegiate gymnasts were linked to the flame-retardants in their gymnastics-training environment, with higher levels of those chemicals in their urine after practice than before practice. The markers of the chemicals in urine samples were the same as the flame-retardants found in pit cubes in the gym's loose-foam pit.

Managers of the gyms reported that they had been required by local fire marshals to purchase equipment containing 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," says lead author Courtney Carignan.

“As a former gymnast, I know that there are many benefits to gymnastics, and I don't think anyone should quit the sport based on our findings," says lead author Courtney Carignan, adding, “However, I hope our findings will alert gymnasts and coaches to take precautions to reduce their exposure, and that they will encourage their gyms to purchase flame-retardant-free equipment in the future."

In the short term, one way that gymnasts can reduce their exposure is by washing their hands with soap and water after practice, rather than just with hand-sanitizer, Carignan says.

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Some popular types of gymnastics equipment may harbor dangerous chemicals and pose a health risk to elite athletes.
chemicals, gymnastics, equipment, ADHD, Cancer
Wednesday, 27 July 2016 12:38 PM
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