Study: Dirty dorms could lead to prolonged health effects

A new study shows fire retardant in dorms could be harmful.

Pioneer Hall, which does not currently hold up to many contemporary building codes, stands in the Super Block on the evening of Saturday Sept. 10, 2016.

Maddy Fox

Pioneer Hall, which does not currently hold up to many contemporary building codes, stands in the Super Block on the evening of Saturday Sept. 10, 2016.

Samir Ferdowsi

Dirty dorm rooms have always been a hassle, but a recent study shows dusty floors might have other risks.

A study by Dr. Robin Dodson of the Silent Spring Institute released last month shows carcinogens in fire retardants used on dorm furniture can work its way into dust in the room. The build-up can potentially lead to dangerous levels.

In animal studies, flame retardant chemicals showed potential links to cancer. But a University of Minnesota professor said the link in humans is inconclusive.

“It’s very difficult to make an exact confirmation on whether or not this will cause cancer,” said Edgar Arriaga, a University chemistry professor.

He said multiple factors should be considered to find the risk of cancer from chemicals like these, especially amount used.

For some chemicals used in fire retardants, the level of toxic material must be over a certain threshold to have any effect on humans, Arriaga said.

“You might even be washing your hands with soap that has potentially been associated with cancer,” he said.

The University doesn’t require flame retardant carpets in the residence halls, said University spokesperson Tim Busse in an email. However, it is present in some dorm furniture.

“Flame retardants are an important part of fire safety,” Busse said. “The University balances concerns about flame retardants with the need to maintain fire safety.”