Flame Retardants In Your Child Pajama, Couch, Mattress, And More…
They are everywhere. We can’t see them, smell them or taste them. We are definitely eating and inhaling them. It is guaranteed that they are in your home and office. These unseen invaders are flame (fire) retardant chemicals.
Video by: Chicago Tribune
What Are Flame Retardants?
Flame retardant chemicals are added to products to inhibit the ignition of flammable materials and thus impede the spread of fire. Although the items could still catch fire, it “should” take longer.
The most common flame retardant chemicals used are PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) – a group of 209 chemical compounds. PBDEs have been widely used as flame retardants since the 1970s.
“The global consumption of flame retardant chemicals should reach 5.6 billion pounds in 2017 and 7.3 billion pounds by 2022, growing at a CAGR (compound annual growth rates) of 5.4%”, (Report 2017).
Because the United States has the world’s highest standards for flame retardants, North America consumes over half of all the PBDEs used in the world, posing a serious and virtually unnecessary risk to human health and the ecosystem.
Flame retardants are literally everywhere and this is not unreasonable. They have been detected in the blood of remote Arctic polar bears, human breast milk, and even in the bark of trees ranging from Tasmania to Indonesia.
They release particles into the environment over the course of their entire life, and in the process contaminate the air, soil and water.
PBDEs are bioaccumulative and toxic to humans and the environment. They are more dangerous than they are safe.
Even firefighters are now speaking out against the use of fire retardant chemicals in everyday household products, noting that they don’t even work as expected.
Tests show not only do they not work, but they actually release toxic fumes when they burn—toxins that may be more likely to kill you than the fire itself.
Flame Retardants May Be Found In:
- electronics, such as:
- textile products, such as:
- stuffed toys
- pillows and cushions
- upholstered furniture
- textile floor coverings
- plastic and rubber products
- construction and renovation products, such as:
- paints and coatings
- lubricants and grease
- spray foam insulation
- construction foam boards
- waterproofing foam products
- adhesives, glues and sealants
- parts for motorized transportation like vehicles and aircraft.
The Primary Sources Of Human Exposure To PBDEs Are:
- INDOOR AIR, INDOOR DUST
They are not just in your furniture or electronics. They are in you. Since PBDEs are dissolved in products rather than chemically bound to them, they tend to break free of their products, evaporate into the air, accumulate in dust, and enter our bodies with every breath taken.
Children actually inhale house dust much more readily than adults. PBDEs stick to kids hands, toys, furniture or other objects that they put in their mouths.
Environmental Working Group studies document that per unit of body weight, American children between one and five years of age, carry more PBDEs in their bloodstream than adults, even five times higher.
Another source of PBDE exposure is through our food supply, particularly in meat, fish and dairy products. PBDEs accumulate in fat tissue. A general rule is that the fattier the meat, the more likely it contains PBDEs.
Tests of groceries bought in American supermarkets revealed that nearly all food of animal origin was contaminated with PBDEs – shrimps, turkey, chicken, butter, ice cream, eggs. Even (unhealthy) soy formula was contaminated. PBDEs are also found in wild and farm-raised fish like salmon.
You will be swallowing flame retardants pretty much no matter what you eat.
PBDEs are found in the most “pure” food of all – breast milk. Infants get plenty of PBDEs through breast milk that is produced from the fatty tissue.
Federal data shows that 92 percent of all women tested in North America had toxic flame retardant chemicals in their breast milk.
PBDE concentrations in North America women’s breast milk has been measured at about 100 times higher than levels in the breast milk of European women, where these chemicals are not permitted.
The average American baby is born with the highest recorded levels of flame retardants among infants in the world.
PBDEs are persistent and bioaccumulative – what means that they stick around in the body. Any chemical that remains in the body has greater potential to result in illness than a chemical that leaves the body.
Flame retardant chemicals have been linked to serious health risks, including infertility, birth defects, neurodevelopmental delays, reduced IQ and behavioral problems in children, hormone disruptions, and cancer. They may also directly affect the brain and, in children, the development of the brain.
Chemicals In Children’s Pajamas
Sleepwear for U.S. and Canadian children aged 6 months to 14 years must meet flammability requirements to prevent ignition if loose fitting pajamas come in contact with a candle or open flame. Manufacturers must submit clothing to a flammability test.
Pajamas are not treated with PBDEs, although synthetic fabrics like polyester, are often made with a chemical additive to make them flame resistant. Chemicals used in sleepwear labeled “FLAME RESISTANT” will remain in the fabric for at least 50 washes.
Brominated tris hit the market first. Environmental groups carried out studies, and found that it was a very strong mutagen and damaged DNA. So the chemical companies replaced it with the chlorinated version. More studies came out and showed that once again, chlorinated tris changed and damaged DNA. It was then banned… or so we thought.
Now it’s a ubiquitous addition to couch cushions. It can easily migrate from the foam and into household dust, which children often pick up on their hands and transfer into their mouths.
Chlorinated Tris (TDCPP)—is a flame retardant. It have been detected in 80 percent of children’s products tested, including nursing pillows, baby carriers, car seats, crib mattresses and and changing pads made of polyurethane foam.
Because many parents have expressed concern over NOT having flame resistant sleepwear, so many manufacturers are now selling 100% cotton pajamas treated with a flame retardant chemical called PROBAN. This chemical allows its flame retardant molecules to penetrate the fabric and form a water insoluble polymer, thus maintaining the softness of cotton yet if the fabric comes into contact with the flame, it will extinguish itself.
Flame retardants in fabrics such as children’s pajamas are volatile, steadily releasing into the air. Scientists believe they harm children, impairing learning, memory, attention and behavior.
It’s hard to remove all the toxins from our children’s environment, but choosing safe sleepwear is one easy step we can take to reduce their exposure.
The best way to avoid flame retardants is to not buy them. Read the tag on clothing and sleepwear. If the label says “flame resistant,” it’s a no go.
Certified organic pajamas are always a safe option as they cannot be labeled organic if they are treated with flame retardants. Avoid also pajamas printed with PVC plastic cartoons because they are laden with hormone disrupting phthalates.
Even though certain PBDEs have been banned in some U.S. states, Canada and the European Union, they persist in the environment and accumulate in your body – and often exist in products imported from other countries.
Manufacturers are not required to disclose the chemicals they use to make their products comply with safety regulations, such as fire safety regulations. Your mattress, for example, may be soaked in toxic flame retardants, but you will not find the chemicals listed on any of the labels.
Look for a mattress made of either 100% organic wool, which is naturally flame-resistant, 100% organic cotton or flannel. I am using mattress from www.myessentia.com. They do not use any chemical fire retardants in their products at all.
How Can You Minimize Your Exposure To Flame Retardants?
Flame retardants are nearly impossible to avoid completely, but if you take these simple precautions you can minimize your exposure:
- PBDEs build up in the fatty tissue of meat and dairy products. Grass-fed animals and fowl contain fewer PBDEs, because they do not consume animal fat in their feed. To buy grass-fed products go online to: www.eatwild.com. There you will find a wealth of information about the farmers as well as information on how and where to buy their products.
- High levels of PBDs have been found in household dust. One way to limit PBDEs exposure to small children who spend a lot of time on the floor is to vacuum floors and upholstered furniture regularly with a vacuum cleaner that has a high-efficiency, or HEPA filter.
- Purchase furniture, children’s pajamas, electronics and carpets from companies that have chosen not to use PBDEs in their products. Many corporations now provide PBDE-free products. For a more complete list of stores and brands that offer flame retardant – free furniture, click here.
McDonald, Libby; The toxic sandbox the truth about environmental toxins and our children’s health; New York : Penguin, 2007; 1st ed
Grossman, Elizabeth; High tech trash digital devices, hidden toxics, and human health; Washington : Island Press/Shearwater Books, c2006
Natterson, Cara Familian; Dangerous or safe? Which foods, medicines, and chemicals really put your kids at risk; New York, N.Y. : Hudson Street Press, c2009
Belli, Brita; The autism puzzle connecting the dots between environmental toxins and rising autism rates; New York : Seven Stories Press, c2012; 1st ed
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