A chemical compound known to cause allergic reactions in people is widely used as a flame retardant in computer plastics, according to research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, a publication of the American Chemical Society. Scientists reported that the compound triphenyl phosphate was present in 10 of 18 new computer monitors they tested, and by measuring the level of the compound in the “breathing zone” extending about two feet in front of the monitors, they found that the compound was emitted into office air in significant quantities, especially during the first week of a new computer monitor’s operation. The compound can cause symptoms ranging from itching to nasal congestion to headaches.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.