Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy and Baby: Are fire retardants really that bad?
Green pregnancy.California Technical Bulletin 117 tag-Avoid all items with this tag!

A great example of this is just last year there was legislation in the California government to restrict flame-retardants in children’s items such as stroller, nursing pillows and high chairs. Flame-retardants do not make items “fire proof”; they simply lengthen the amount of time it takes something to catch on fire by seconds (typically about 12 seconds). As a tradeoff of dousing household items with these chemicals, the smoke that is created from these chemicals when they do catch on fire is much more toxic. The evidence shows that nearly all people die in fires from smoke inhalation, not from the flames.
These chemicals do ignite and create a much more deadly situation for you and your family-even the fire fighters were fighting for these regulations as their exposure is great during a fire.

So what is the necessity for these items to be treated anyway? A nursing pillow? Wouldn’t you run out of the fire if you were nursing your child rather than hoping the fire resistant chemical would protect your baby? A stroller? Does that make sense? We seem to have lost our logical decision making, for reasons like desensitization, lack of education on the subject, and marketing by the chemical makers.

The chemicals they use now are the same chemicals that were banned in children’s clothing in the 1970’s due to the link to cancer. Because of this, over 30 years ago there were regulations to have them taken them out of children’s clothing. Since then, we have added them to absolutely everything else possible. Couches, drapes, baby swings, pillows, carpet padding, electronics, Crib mattresses and pillows, crib bumpers, and remote controls just to name a few. (A lot children’s clothing is still treated with fire retardant, just a different equally toxic kind) Another fact that most people do not realize is the exposure to these fire retardants is not a passing exposure. Flame-retardants are what is called “bio-accumulative”. This means that your body does not eliminate them and they accumulate in the body, typically in your fat cells. The half-life of some of these chemicals is 47 years!! So imagine exposing yourself or your brand new infant to a chemical that will increase and increase in their body, is linked to cancer, ADD, and other neurological problems and diseases, is passed from your body through the placenta and breast milk, all for no benefit other than chemical companies profits?

And just when this legislation looked like it may pass, logically, it should since it doesn’t make sense to definitely exposure everyone including pregnant women and small children to toxic chemicals for seemingly no benefit, the chemical companies created a huge push in the CA government and the regulations were defeated. So your baby can inhale toxic chemicals like Chlorinated Tris while they nurse, eat in their high chair, stroll around, and bounce in their bouncy seat-all under the guise of fire protection. Sadly, the chemical companies have become so powerful and their reach so broad, that you cannot actually buy many of these items like sofas without flame retardants in them without spending thousands and thousands of dollars more than treated couches. Companies are not required to disclose what type of flame retardant they use on their products. Just contact Pottery Barn if you want proof of this. You will receive a response that this is proprietary information, meaning it is a “trade secret”. So you are not allowed to even know what type of chemicals you and your family are being exposed to on a day-to-day basis. The companies that do disclose what they treat their products with such as Crate and Barrel and Peg Perego will admit that they use Chlorinated Tris, the very chemical banned from children’s clothing due to toxicity. Scary! They will send you a form letter how wonderful and safe it is compared to what they used to use, PDBE’s. Great! You can only imagine how toxic PDBE’s are to our bodies.

So what can you do about it? It may seem so overwhelming that is seems easier just to do nothing. Well there are some things you can do to try to protect your family. First, be aware that these toxic chemicals accumulate in dust. So make sure you are dusting often and thoroughly. Second, invest in an air filter with a HEPA filter. Third, open your windows every chance you can! For more ideas of how to protect yourself click here.

References:

“Fire Retardants (PBDes) in Toddlers: How to Avoid PBDes | Environmental Working Group.” EWG Home | Environmental Working Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Feb. 2011. <http://www.ewg.org/reports/pbdeintoddlers/howtoavoidPBDes>.

“Fire retardants and baby products: This isn’t kid stuff – Los Angeles Times.” Featured Articles From The Los Angeles Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Feb. 2011. <http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jul/13/opinion/oe-long13

“Potentially Toxic Flame Retardants Highest In California Households.” Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, Environment & Technology. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Feb. 2011. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081006170710.htm

“Toxic Chemicals in House Dust | Environmental Working Group.” EWG Home | Environmental Working Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Feb. 2011. <http://www.ewg.org/healthyhome

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6 thoughts on “Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy and Baby: Are fire retardants really that bad?

  1. Great blog, thanks. A comment on your photo – I think that product might be one to look for … it states that the product does NOT meet flammability standards of California 117. Products that DO meet the flammability standards are more likely to have the toxic fire retardants. Sadly, there is a good chance if any of us check in our houses, we can find one of the DO meet tags.

  2. I’m just trying to wrap my head around this as I’ve just learned about TB117 (after an email to Ikea customer service about their couches and in my search for a mattress).

    Do I have to go to a library to find a copy of the Technical Bulletin 117? What does it actually say? To comply with it, does the product necessarily contain chemicals or can an item made of, say wool, comply with it.

    Thank you,
    Alisa

    • The Tech Bulletin 117 states a lot of rules and regulations but when it comes to the items you are referring to such as mattresses, baby items, etc it simply states that an item must have a delay before it catches on fire (12 seconds). It does not require chemicals. This is why you can get wool and latex mattresses, etc that meet the standard. However, it is cheaper for companies just to use the chemicals to meet the standard and that is why they do it.

      “California Technical Bulletin 117, a mandatory standard, is both an open flame test and a smoldering cigarette test for the component materials used to make residential upholstered furniture which is to be sold in the state of California. In this test, each upholstery component except the covering fabric is time exposed to either an open flame or a smoldering cigarette in a defined test chamber, and the propagation of the open flame or the cigarette char length is measured to a specific specification criteria contained in Technical Bulletin 117. All upholstered furniture components except frames must comply with this test procedure and criteria”

      This is why polyeurythane foam is treated as it is highly flammable. This foam is often found in baby items like high chairs, nursing pillows, even those cute Pottery Barn baby couches. Some items that do not contain foam are still treated. Most make no sense such as items like strollers and other baby items. You can sometimes purchase items that simply have polyester fill that are not treated but you will need to confirm with the company (and from my experience I would say from at least two different people as I often get misleading answers) or you can go with wool nursing pillows, wood high chairs and other options that will protect you from these damaging chemicals.

      Also, there seems to be an “Ikea kick” as they are trying to say they are safe products since they do not use brominated flame retardants. They use chlorinated tris instead which are the same chemicals that were removed from children’s sleepwear in the 1970′s due to its carcinogenic effects.

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