Reducing gymnast exposure
Get the Word Out
View and share our Fact Sheet on flame retardants and gymnastics.
Implement a Hand-washing Policy
Gymnasts can reduce their exposure to flame retardants by washing their hands with soap and water after practice and before eating. Gyms can promote hand washing by educating their coaches and athletes about flame retardants in foam, implementing a hand washing policy at the gym, and hanging posters that encourage hand washing practices. While hand sanitizer is not effective at removing flame retardants from the skin, hand or baby wipes may be more effective if you can not use soap and water.
Studies have found that people who wash their hands more frequently have lower levels of flame retardants in their bodies [1,2]. This is consistent with predictions that hand to mouth contact is an important way people are exposed to flame retardants . A recent study found higher levels of flame retardants were found on gymnast’s hands before compared to after practice , suggesting this may be a useful intervention for gymnasts.
Take precautions with pit fluffing/cleaning activities
Cleaning and fluffing the loose foam pit (jump pit) suspends dust that can be inhaled and/or subsequently swallowed. As extremely high levels of flame retardants were measured in dust from foam pits  this may be an important way that gymnasts are exposed to flame retardants. Potentially useful precautions include wearing protective clothing and using a dust mask. We suggest using a mask rated N95 (or higher) for solid particulates with an exhaust valve, which can be purchased at most hardware stores. The exhaust valve is useful to improve the ability to breathe with exertion.
Test your gym’s pit cubes for flame retardants
You can send a small piece of foam to The Duke University Superfund Program for free testing of 7 flame retardants commonly found in foam. They also have some useful resources including a webinar and infograph.
Consider ways to maintain fire safety without flame retardant chemicals
We are currently facilitating a study of pit cubes and fire safety that should provide useful information for gyms. You can view our preliminary results in the webinar posted on our resources page and we have an updated webinar planned for May 2017 (stay updated). In the mean time, it may be useful to begin a conversation with your gym and Fire Marshal about ways to maintain fire safety without the use of flame retardants (i.e., fire detection and suppression).
Landing mats with a vinyl cover should not need to contain flame retardants to meet flammability standards. Your gym can ask their supplier to provide a certificate from the manufacturer that the product is flame retardant free. It is also good for foam to be Certipur compliant, but that designation does not currently assure it is free of all harmful flame retardants (i.e., components of the Firemaster mixture such as triphenyl phosphate). See our FAQ page for a list of suppliers that we have confirmed can provide flame retardant free foam.
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