Thursday, September 11, 2008

Flame Retardants in Mothers and Their Toddlers

A new study released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that the levels of flame retardants were 3 times higher in toddlers than in their mothers. The flame retardants are hormone-disrupting chemicals and they build up in our bodies. They are found practically everywhere around us – in the sofas, chairs, mattresses, carpet, curtains, laptops, computers and other electronics, etc. It looks like they are also found in dust and the researchers are not sure how it gets there.

The researchers examined 20 American families and they found that in 19 of them, concentrations of the chemicals known as PBDEs were significantly higher in 1.5- to 4-year-old children than their mothers. In total 11 different flame retardants were found in these children, and 86 percent of the time the chemicals were present at higher levels in the children than their mothers.

Two forms of PBDEs known as Penta and Octa are banned in the U.S., but are still found in furniture and foam items made before the phase-out was complete. The largest volume of PBDEs are used in electronics in a form known as Deca. Deca is banned in European electronics and in some U.S. states. Deca was found in higher concentrations in kids than in their mothers as seen in the figure (adapted from EWG). For the full report go here.

Although there are safer alternatives, the industry continues to use them on a large scale.

What to do:

  • avoid PBDE's in electronics; next time when you need to purchase new electronics look for companies that ban brominated flame retardants in their products.
  • avoid PBDE's in foam; all furniture that has foam in it has also flame retardants. Vacuum your furniture and carpet often; be careful when removing old carpet (ventilate well). When purchasing new products, ask the manufacturer what flame retardants are they using. Ikea is always a good place to shop, since they phased out all PBDE's many years ago.
  • do not reupholster your old furniture.
  • the alternatives of PBDE's are not fully tested for their health effects so try to buy products made from naturally fibers (wool and cotton) because they are naturally flame resistant. However, be careful when purchasing organic furniture; it still can have flame retardants.
  • wash your hand often and make a habit for the kids as well; their hands seem to be more full of dust since they spend more time playing on the floor.
  • some additional advice can be found in a previous post.


Lisa said...

This is so sad news. How can we convince our government that we do not smoke in the cribs; that we can be responsible for our goods. I want to be responsible for my health too; I want to decide for myself. It is so sad - no wonder there are so many kids with so many diseases. Thanks for the post, it is great! I do not comment much but I am a regular reader of your blog.

Diane said...

VERY good article - this is so important! You can purchase organic mattresses without flame retardants, but they are expensive. For cribs, there is a company in New Zealand that sells crib mattress wraps. We bought one and had it shipped to the states. Total cost was only about $30 dollars and it got here in a couple of days! The dust that shows up in peoples' homes is often from televisions, from what I've read. We keep ours in the basement, but it does come from computers too. A tragedy in my eyes!