“When we’re eating organic, we’re avoiding very small amounts of pesticides,” said Arlene Blum, a California chemist who has fought to limit flame retardants in household products. “Then we sit on our couch that can contain a pound of chemicals that’s from the same family as banned pesticides like DDT.
The Chicago Tribune wrote an excellent article today about the confluence of the Chemical Industry, supposedly “public interest” groups, and the flame-retardant toxins that are now ubiquitous in our homes.
Some of the hardest-hitting findings:
- Flame retardants don’t even work to prevent fire. Treated foam burns the same as non-treated foam.
- Flame retardants have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and neurological deficits
- One of the primary testimonies during the California legislature’s decision to require flame retardants in household products came from a doctor who described infants dying from non-flame retardant pillows/furniture. He completely made the incidents up.
- The primary public interest group, Citizens For Fire Safety, is actually a front group whose only three members are Albemarle, ICL Industrial Products and Chemtura. These three groups are the largest manufacturers of fire-retardant chemicals in the world and control 40% of global market share for these chemicals.
- These companies are funding scientific fronts whose sole mission is to generate science showing that these flame retardant chemicals are safe
- American babies have the highest concentrations of flame retardant chemicals in their bodies compared to the rest of the entire world
These chemicals are in your beds, your carpets, your pillows, your couch cushions. Flame-retardant chemicals are all over the place- in polar bears, in seals, in house dust. Kids sit and play on the ground, put things in their mouths, and eat these cancer-causing, neurologically-damaging, hormone-disrupting chemicals.
What to do? Download the EWG’s guide to PBDES, the most common flame retardant chemical. EWG has several tips on how to avoid PBDE’s. Some of the obvious ones are:
- Vacuum often. Use a HEPA-fitted vacuum cleaner, as these are more likely to get at the PBDEs.
- Foam manufactured in the US after 2004 does not have PBDEs - though it does have other nasty fire retardant chemicals. Imported foam is free of this requirement, so avoid it.
- Keep your foam covers intact. Replace ripped covers
- When removing carpet, wear a mask, isolate the room from your kids and other parts of the house. Vacuum up dust immediately.
And then some other recommendations:
- Buy an organic bed. They’re expensive, but they come from latex farms and are wrapped in wool, so no nasty chemicals. Also, some companies have 20 year manufacturer warranties, so you pay more now but you save more in the long run.
- Avoid the sticker that says “complies with California flame regulations”. This isn’t a guarantee that you’re avoiding flame retardancy, but it is certainly a start.