Our goals and members
The Gymnast Flame Retardant Collaborative (GFRC) was founded by a group of flame retardant researchers to facilitate communication between research scientists, fire safety experts, equipment manufacturers and the gymnastics community. Some of our goals are to:
1. Exchange information about flame retardants, gymnastics and fire safety standards.
2. Design and test intervention strategies for reducing gymnast exposure to flame retardants.
3. Explore options for eliminating the use of additive flame retardants in gymnastics equipment.
4. Further characterize gymnast exposure to flame retardants and monitor for potential health effects.
Our current research team includes:
Courtney Carignan, PhD
Dr. Carignan is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She is an environmental epidemiologist and exposure scientist whose research focuses on emerging contaminants, particularly flame retardants and other endocrine disrupting chemicals, among vulnerable populations and effects on human fertility and reproduction. As a former competitive gymnast, she understands the unique equipment needs and exposure scenarios for gymnasts and is currently facilitating a research project aimed at reducing gymnast exposure to flame retardants by identifying preferred solutions for foam pits. Dr. Carignan is currently leading an intervention study aimed at flame retardant exposure in gymnastics training facilities along with the team members below.
Heather Stapleton, MS, PhD
Dr. Stapleton is an Associate Professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. She is an environmental chemist and an international expert on flame retardants. Her lab is at the leading edge of flame retardant research and was instrumental in helping get flame retardants out of foam-containing baby products in the U.S.
Nicholas Dembsey, PhD, PE, FSFPE
Dr. Dembsey is a Professor of Fire Protection Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He is leading a study to compare combustion properties of flame retardant and flame retardant free pit cubes.
Robin Dodson, ScD
Dr. Dodson is a Research Scientist at the Silent Spring Institute with expertise in exposure science in the indoor environment with a specific emphasis on semi-volatile compounds including flame retardants.
Joy Onasch, MS, PE
Ms. Onasch is a registered Professional Engineer in three states and a registered Toxics Use Reduction Planner in Massachusetts who works at the Toxic Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She is working with the Massachusetts fire protection community on strategies to reduce reliance on flame retardants in foam equipment.
Mr. Brokaw is an undergraduate student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute studying Architectural Engineering and Fire Protection Engineering. He has been testing the flammability of pit cubes that do and do not contain fire retardants.
Ms. Jazan is a graduate student at Tufts University in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
We currently engage with a group of partners who actively support the goals of the GFRC:
Dr. Jay Binder, USA Gymnastics Board of Directors
John Deary, Deary’s Gymnastics Supply
Dr. Josh Eldridge, Gymnast Care
Loree Gailmore, USA Gymnastics
John Sweeney, Seattle Gymnastics
Mike Urquhart, Future Foam