Flame-Retardants Study Selected as ‘Best Paper of 2017’ by Scientific Journal

March 22, 2018

Tim Lucas, (919) 613-8084, tdlucas@duke.edu

Heather Stapleton and Kate Hoffman.jpg

Hoffman, shown left, and Stapleton

DURHAM -- The editors of Environmental Science & Technology Letters (ES&TL) have selected a peer-reviewed study by Nicholas School of the Environment faculty members Heather Stapleton and Kate Hoffman as the journal’s best paper of 2017.

The study, which was published in February 2017, revealed that levels of organophosphate flame-retardants in Americans’ body tissue have risen sharply since the start of the century. In some cases, samples collected in 2014 and 2015 were more than 15 times higher than those collected in 2002.

Organophosphate flame-retardants are increasingly being used in a multitude of consumer products, from baby toys to upholstered furniture. Scientists are still uncertain what health risks they may pose.

Hoffman and Stapleton’s study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Duke University Medical Center and public health schools from across the country.

Hoffman, an environmental epidemiologist, came to Duke in 2014 to work in Stapleton’s lab before being named research assistant professor in 2017. Her research focuses on understanding the impact of exposure to environmental chemicals on children’s growth and development.

Stapleton, who joined the Duke faculty in 2005, is the Dan and Bunny Gabel Associate Professor of Environmental Ethics and Sustainable Environmental Management She also serves as deputy director of the Duke University Superfund Center. An environmental chemist by training, she is widely cited for her research on identifying flame- retardant chemicals in consumer products and evaluating human exposures to them, particularly in children.

This is the second time one of Stapleton’s lab’s papers has been selected as the best of the year by the editors of a scientific journal.  In 2012, she was lead author on a paper identifying the presence of banned or potentially harmful flame-retardant chemicals in baby products; that paper was named the best of the year by the editors of ES&TL’s sister journal, Environmental Science & Technology.