Gymnasts at risk for exposure to flame retardants, study warns

Boston – Gymnasts may be exposed to high levels of flame retardants from the foam in gym equipment, according to a new study from Boston University.

Researchers took hand-wipe and blood samples from 11 collegiate female gymnasts before and after practice to gauge exposure to PentaBDE, a flame retardant that was phased out of use because of concerns about possible health effects. On average, the level of the flame retardant found among gymnasts was 4 to 6.5 times higher than the general population, according to the study abstract.

Specifically, the concentration of PentaBDE was found to be 2-3 times higher after practice, providing evidence for researchers’ theory that exposure occurred during contact with foam equipment and dust in the training area.

To help reduce exposure among gymnists, researchers advised washing hands after practice and before eating.

The study was published online in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.