January 6, 2022

Flame-Retardant Chemical, Water Disinfection Byproducts Added to Report on Carcinogens

The 15th Report on Carcinogens, a congressionally-mandated publication of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program (NTP), was released in December and includes eight new substances: the flame-retardant chemical antimony trioxide, chronic infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), and six haloacetic acids found as water disinfection byproducts. With the exception of chronic infection with H. pylori, all of the new substances are listed as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Chronic infection with H. pylori, which colonizes in the stomach and can cause gastritis and peptic ulcers, is listed as “known to be a human carcinogen.” According to NTP, chronic infection with the bacterium may lead to stomach cancer and a rare type of stomach lymphoma.

Antimony trioxide is a component of flame retardants used in consumer products including plastics and textiles. The highest exposure to the chemical occurs among workers who produce antimony trioxide or use it to make flame retardants. NTP notes that other people may be exposed to antimony trioxide by breathing outdoor air contaminated with the chemical or dust from the wear and tear of products treated with flame retardants.

The six haloacetic acids found as water disinfection byproducts listed in the 15th Report on Carcinogens include bromochloroacetic acid, bromodichloroacetic acid, chlorodibromoacetic acid, dibromoacetic acid, dichloroacetic acid, and tribromoacetic acid. Haloacetic acids “are formed during the disinfection of water from a reaction between the chlorine-based disinfection agents and organic matter in the source water,” NTP explains.

The 15th Report on Carcinogens and related materials can be found on NTP’s website.