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Green Tips: A Burning Tip for Home Products

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By Deborah deMoulpied

Ho, ho, ho … how did we get flame retardants in just about everything in our homes? It’s in furniture, drapes, coffee makers, mattresses, microwaves, and carpets, and in electrical cords, TV sets, pillows, baby products, cars and blankets. Oh my. These come without precautions, explanations or tags! Well, maybe some had a big tag saying they met some fire-safety standard.

What started with well-intended fire safety preventative measures ended up with the chemical industry dousing anything they could get regulated with chemical flame retardants. Heck, everything has the potential to burn, so we had better put flame retardants on them just in case, including diaper changing pads and baby car seats. When was the last time you saw a baby smoking while sitting in its car seat?

Turns out that the amount of flame retardants isn’t even enough to do much good but enough to do us no good. Banned long ago in Europe, many of these chemicals have only recently been banned in California for use on furniture. It’s no wonder that Americans have flame retardants 10 to 40 times higher in their blood than Europeans. Flame retardants are endocrine-disrupting chemicals and are a link to a host of problems such as neurological and reproductive disorders, and cancers.

When applied to products, they do not adhere well, so they easily can rub into your skin, become airborn or end up in dust. Most are persistent organic pollutants so they stick around in the environment and in us for a really long time.

This is the time of year for purchasing gifts and home items; choosing products without flame retardants is a good idea. Doing interior home renovations such as installing new carpets probably is something that should wait until the windows can be open. And the clincher in all of this is, for all of you who pride yourselves in setting a very low thermostat at night to save fuel (and the planet) and use an electric blanket to save energy….guess what?  That heating blanket is covered in flame retardants.

An old-fashioned, red rubber hot water bottle anyone? They actually work.

Deborah deMoulpied is owner and founder of Bona Fide Green Goods, an earth-friendly department store in Concord, NH. Bonafidegreengoods.com won the Webby Awards Green Honoree in 2011. Deborah is also faculty of the Anticancer Lifestyle Program, teaching patients about environmental toxins and healthful solutions.

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