Last month the Environmental Working Group published a startling report, Fire Retardants in Toddlers and Their Mothers, in which the first investigation of toxic fire retardants in parents and their children found that toddlers and preschoolers typically had three times as much of these hormone-disrupting chemicals in their blood as their mothers. According to the EWG site:
Laboratory tests (conducted for EWG by one of the world’s leading scientific authorities on fire retardants) found that in 19 of 20 U.S. families, 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.
The current study is the first to show that U.S. children have much higher levels of PBDEs in their blood than their parents and in fact bear some of the heaviest burdens of flame retardant pollution in the industrialized world.
PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are global pollutants that build up in the blood and tissues of people and other living things. Two forms of PBDEs known as Penta and Octa are no longer made in the U.S. because of health and safety concerns, 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.
PBDEs in everyday items like furniture, computers, televisions and other electronics migrate into the home environment and could expose children to concentrations exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended safe level. Children ingest more PBDEs than adults because they stick to kids’ hands, toys or other objects they put in their mouths.
How to Reduce Exposure to PBDEs
• Inspect all foam items for ripped covers or misshapen foam, including car seats, pillows, couches and mattresses.
• Clean up with a HEPA filter vacuum to remove contaminants from your home.
• Wash your hands often, and keep kid’s hands clean to reduce exposure.
• Avoid products with brominated fire retardants, including “natural” or latex foam. Ask which type of fire retardants are used in products that you purchase.
• Use caution when removing old carpet. Close off the work area from the rest of the house, and vacuum with a HEPA filter afterwards.
• Avoid PBDEs in new electronics. Buy from companies that have publicly committed to phasing out all brominated fire retardants, such as Apple, Nokia, Acer, and Samsung.