There’s Another Benefit to Hand-Washing During Pandemic

Hands with lather on them

Washing your hands more often may do more than slow the spread of COVID-19: New research suggests it also lowers your exposure to toxic flame retardants.

How? Scientists found that halogenated flame retardants used in plastic TV cases can travel from the TV to indoor air and dust, then to hands, and then to electronic devices such as cellphones.

That means that you can be exposed to these chemicals every time you touch your cellphone, according to the study published June 9 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

Halogenated flame retardants, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are known to be a health risk to children. Previous research has shown that exposure to these chemicals can cause lower IQ and behavioral problems in children.

“It’s well-known that viruses are transferred between surfaces and hands,” said study co-author Miriam Diamond, a professor in the University of Toronto’s department of earth sciences.

“Our study shows that toxic chemicals like flame retardants do the same. That’s another reason we should all wash our hands often and well,” Diamond said in a university news release.