TV Gas `Poisons Viewers'

By Geoffrey Lean And Jane Hughes | The Independent (London, England), July 18, 1999 | Go to article overview
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TV Gas `Poisons Viewers'


Geoffrey Lean And Jane Hughes, The Independent (London, England)


POISONOUS chemicals seeping out of television sets and computers are contaminating those who watch and use them, new research reveals.

The findings, due to be published next month, indicate that the whole population is now polluted with the chemicals - used as fire retardants - and they are rapidly building up in people's bodies. The chemicals are thought to cause brain damage and disrupt the hormone system, causing "gender bender" effects.

Even before the study, the chemicals - also used in curtains, other textiles and foam-filled furniture - sparked a row within the Government. John Prescott's Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is examining ways of restricting their use. But Stephen Byers' Department of Trade and Industry dismisses concerns as "chemophobia", claiming the chemicals pose no serious threat.

Sweden is moving to ban the chemicals and the World Health Organisation has recommended "they should not be used where suitable replacements are available". The chemicals, called Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs), are used in televisions, computers and other electrical goods made of plastic to stop them catching fire when they overheat. But as they warm up they give off fumes that are breathed in by their users.

Last year an international study by scientists in Germany, the United States and the Netherlands reported how a young Israeli had developed an alarming series of symptoms after prolonged exposure to television screens. During an eight-month period when he was 13 the youth spent several hours a day watching TV and playing computer games while in a small, unventilated room.

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