Fire retardants are toxic to our environment and our families. Fire retardants are in a lot of things, furniture, electronics, appliances, and even baby products. One particularly toxic form of PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) has been taken off the market (2005), but there are new ones that are also linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. Scientists have found exposure at critical points in development can damage the reproductive system and cause deficits in motor skills, learning, memory, and behavior.
Avoid fire retardants when possible otherwise minimize exposure
- It is hard to avoid the retardants in TVs, remotes, cell phones, and building materials. But, at least try to keep them out of toddler’s mouths.
- Inspect foam cushioning for damage. Make sure the foam is completely encased in protective fabric. There are no holes or tears in the upholstery, car seats or mattress pad covers.
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to trap dust contaminated with fire retardants. Use it often.
- Be careful removing old carpet. Isolate the work area from the rest of your home and thoroughly clean it after removing it.
- Wash retardant chemicals from your hands before you eat.
- Test your furniture. Most older couches and easy chairs contain Tris or other worrisome flame retardants. Duke University will test foam from your furniture for free.
When you buy or refurbish, look for items without fire retardants
They are found in electronics, building materials, anything with foam including upholstered furniture, futons, carpet padding, child safety seats, changing table pads, portable crib mattresses, nap mats, and nursing pillows. EWG states they know of no children’s pajamas currently treated with fire retardants.
- There is often no easy way to tell if baby products, upholstered furniture, etc. have been saturated with fire retardants. Call the manufacturer and ask.
- Reupholstering furniture? Replace the foam with one without fire retardants.
Work to ban bad chemicals
The good news is once banned, chemicals do get out of our homes and bodies. States are leading the effort. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is not one of them.
Work to make new products safer
Many chemicals are ineffective and unnecessary and pose unknown risks to our health. It isn’t enough to simply ban chemicals after they cause problems. Instead, our federal government must safeguard our health by requiring new chemicals to be fully screened for safety and only used when necessary.