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Green Tips

Flame Retardants Need to Be Extinguished

by Deborah DeMoulpied, Bona Fide Green Goods

Flame retardants come in a multitude of names from long, multi-syllabic words to short, capitalized 3-letter acronyms. The most common ones,  polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and Deca have been around for decades since replacing the very toxic PCBs in the 70’s. There are efforts to phase out PBDEs in some products such as foam mattresses. TDCP and TCEP, sometimes called TRIS, are a type of PBDE. In animal studies, TDCP is considered a probable human carcinogen by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, and has been associated with many other conditions. The newest replacement chemicals TBB and TBPH have already been found in the air from Michigan to the Arctic.

PBDE’s are everywhere: mattresses, carpets, carpet padding, cars, upholstery, electronics, computers, TVs, curtains, baby strollers, foam, changing pads, nursing pillows and crib mattresses.  These chemicals are not stable – they become airborne and rub onto your skin. They are called POPS – persistent organic pollutants – and they stick around for a really long time. They bioaccumulate in your body. Americans have 20 times the amount of flame retardants in their blood compared to Europeans. Animals and fish all over the world have flame retardants in their blood and fat.

While flame retardants have infiltrated our environment, it is possible to minimize your future exposure.
Here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Choose natural, untreated fibers and fabrics when possible.
  2. Frequently wash your hands, even at home.
  3. Use a good HEPA vacuum filter.
  4. Wet mop your floor instead of sweeping.
  5. Avoid polyurethane foam, consider real rubber.
  6. Choose wool as a natural flame retardant, particularly in mattresses.
  7. Replace torn furniture with exposed foam padding.

Flame retardants do have a place in certain products, (like a microwave) but have undoubtedly burdened our environment. After all, when was the last time you saw a baby smoking in a stroller? It’s time to extinguish the over use of flame retardants.

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