You may or may not have heard about the dangers of flame-retardants in everyday items as of late. So what is the big deal with them and why should we care? We want to have our houses safer by having better fire protection right? Especially people like me who live in California where fires are more common? Well, this is subject that deserves a closer look, especially if you are pregnant, would like to one day become pregnant or have children. There is a lot of downside to these chemicals and the upside seems to fade away when you really do your research.
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 yourself and your family!
1. Buy products that do not contain chemical flame retardants. Ask companies and be persistant. Easier is to but organic cotton and wool products. For safe choices you can refer to our blogs on strollers, infant carriers and slings, car seats, plush animals, high chairs and more!
2. Vacuum and dust often!! Flame retardants are found in the air and dust in your home. Keeping this at bay is a good way to reduce exposure. Wipe down childrens’ toys often.
3. Buy a good air purifier! We recommend Austin Air purifiers as they have 5 different filters including a HEPA filter and filters to greatly reduce many different types of dust particles.
4. Don’t recover old furniture. They likely contain PBDEs. You are better off purchasing used furniture that is newer.
5. Look for an avoid the CA Technical Bulletin 117 tag.