Fairfield County Edition

Flame Retardants in Children’s Products?

Fire Protection Creates Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

Dangerous flame retardants continue to be present in a variety of children’s products. Despite efforts to ban these toxic chemicals, they are still commonly found in everything from pajamas to mattresses. While it is possible to limit exposure, it’s impossible to avoid it completely. Flame retardants have been associated with numerous ailments and serious health issues including learning disorders, decreased IQ, infertility and cancer.

While it may seem puzzling to many that these chemicals are still prevalent in some manufacturing, upon taking a closer look, the reasoning becomes more apparent. The chemical industry spends millions of dollars supporting the use of flame retardants because it is believed that the bigger problem is the fire the chemicals supposedly protect children from. But, in fact, products made with the flame retardants can and still do catch fire and release higher levels of toxic chemicals. In fact, firefighters are at the top of the list of those seeking a permanent ban on this type of chemical.

While many people agree that a ban on flame retardants is necessary, Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, campaign director for Washington Toxics Coalition, states that protecting children from fire does not mean that they should be exposed to toxic chemicals. Unfortunately, there are always chemicals that children will be exposed to. But even banning one could help and potentially start a strong movement to ban more of them. When the effects of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) are combined with other chemical exposures such as pesticides, the results can be serious and long-lasting. Numerouas tests have revealed startlingly elevated levels of flame retardants in the breast milk of American women, significantly higher than that of women in European countries, where PBDE is not allowed. In addition, flame retardants were present in every sample of household dust in a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group. Not only are dust particles able to be inhaled, but dust easily ends up on children’s hands and mouths.

Combined with the fact that flame retardants aren’t required to be specifically labeled, parents have a difficult job deciding which products are safe and won’t cause harm to their children.

“For those interested in sleeping in a chemical-free environment, simply make sure polyurethane is not listed as an ingredient on any mattress,” says David Spittal, owner of Healthy Choice Organic Mattress.

Maine recently passed a law to phase out all flame-retardant chemicals in home furniture, possibly paving the way for more legislation to ban PBDE.

In the meantime, research all products. Alternative materials, such as cotton and wool, are better options than chemically treated foam. If an item is labeled, “This article meets the flammability requirements of California,” don’t buy it. Many baby products need to be avoided as they contain plastic foam. Highchairs, strollers, car seats and nursing pillows are among the many that may contain harmful flame retardants. According to Spittal, a large part of his clientele are mothers seeking the healthiest start they can provide for their babies. Using a HEPA filter vacuum is helpful in cleaning up chemical-filled dust. Being educated and aware of the harm flame retardants can cause can help a person to make informed decisions when it comes to protecting their children.

Healthy Choice Mattress is located at 21 South St, New Canaan. For more information, call 203-920-1244 or visit HCMattress.com. See ad, page 25.

Brielle Bleeker is a journalist for Natural Awakenings magazine.

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