Dermal uptake of chlorinated organophosphate flame retardants via contact with furniture fabrics; implications for human exposure

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The chlorinated organophosphate flame retardants (Cl-PFRs): tris-(2-chloroethyl)-phosphate (TCEP), tris-(1-chloro-2-propyl)-phosphate (TCIPP) and tris-(1,3-dichloropropyl)-phosphate (TDCIPP), have been widely used in upholstered furniture despite their carcinogenic potential. Although Cl-PFRs are mainly added to furniture foam, they are present in the fabrics likely due to migration from the foam. While several studies have assessed human exposure to Cl-PFRs via different pathways, no information exists on dermal uptake of these chemicals through contact with fabrics. In the current study, dermal absorption of TCEP, TCIPP and TDCIPP from 3 UK domestic furniture fabrics was experimentally assessed for the first time using in vitro 3D-human skin equivalents (EpiSkin™) under different real-life exposure scenarios. Results revealed all 3 target Cl-PFRs were dermally bioavailable to varying degrees (3.5%–25.9% of exposure dose) following 24 h contact with the studied fabrics. Estimated permeability coefficients (KP, cm h−1) showed TCEP had the highest percutaneous penetration potential followed by TCIPP, then TDCIPP. Further investigation revealed human dermal uptake of Cl-PFRs can be influenced by several factors including: the specific physicochemical properties of the compound, the type of exposure matrix, the exposure dose and the degree of skin hydration at the point of contact. Exposure assessment revealed UK adults and toddlers can be exposed to 20.4 and 14.1 ng TCIPP/kg bw/day via contact with furniture fabrics in summer, which is higher than international average exposures via inhalation and dust ingestion for adults and dietary exposure for toddlers. Therefore, risk assessment studies for Cl-PFRs and future replacements should consider dermal contact with consumer products (e.g. furniture fabrics) as a potential significant human exposure pathway.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112847
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Research
Early online date29 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.


  • Absorption
  • Bioavailability
  • Dermal exposure
  • Organophosphate flame retardants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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