Toxic chemicals used to fireproof sofas and mattresses have caused a surge in thyroid cancer, experts warn.

Flame retardants are feared to be making families ill after being exposed to them through household dust, according to Daily Mail.

Although the chemicals have been widely restricted, experts warn the measures do not go far enough.

It comes after the Government was repeatedly warned of the potential dangers of the chemicals by the civil servant for furniture fire safety policy.

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Terry Edge, who quit the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy last year after his proposals to restrict all flame retardants were rejected, said: "Flame retardants are causing thousands of cancers and other illnesses, with children particularly vulnerable."

Thyroid cancer cases have leapt by 74 per cent in the last decade in Britain, with US researchers blaming the rising rates on flame retardants.

After analysing household dust and taking blood samples from people with thyroid cancer, the scientists from Duke University found the patients had a high exposure to flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

These were banned in 2004 but are still in the homes of people with furniture bought before that time.

The cancer patients also had higher levels of TCEP, a flame retardant banned 16 years ago.

Both chemicals are linked with cancer because they interfere with hormones.

DecaBDE, the most widely used of the PBDE chemicals, is not banned but highly restricted.

Dr Heather Stapleton, whose work will be presented at the International Symposium on Fire Retardants in York, told the Sunday Times: "The chemicals are released as household dust and enter our bodies on our food and hands, with the highest levels in children."

Brominated flame retardants are linked with learning problems, low sperm counts and difficulties in becoming pregnant.

They have been used in sofas, mattresses and carpets.

A spokesman for the National Bed Federation said DecaBDE is set to be banned within two years.

A Defra spokesman said: "We will continue to push for further controls."