Sunday, January 22, 2012


Flame retardants are chemicals that help decrease flammability in consumer products.  What most people don’t know is that they are found in most of our furniture and many children’s products we  have at home. Everything from upholstered furniture,  (couches, upholstered chairs, futons, pillows, car seat cushions etc) to mattresses and electronic equipment ( tv’s, remotes, cell phones, lighting, wiring) are treated with flame retardants.  As are children’s  pijamas,  crib mattresses, car seats, baby gyms, changing pads and strollers.

There are various different types of fire retardants, but today we will talk about TRIS; specifically the TRIS that goes by the acronym of TDCPP.   Tris has had a rebirth of sorts recently, as it was voluntarily removed from children’s products in the 1970’s when it was found to cause to be a ‘weak mutagenic’ (i.e.: it caused changes in DNA and lead to cancer) .  Today, it is once again being found in common baby products in large quantities.

What is it?
Tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate also known as chlorinated TRIS or  TDCPP,  is a flame retardant added to  polyurethane foam. This is the foam most commonly found in  furniture and baby products.

Why should I be concerned?
The history behind TRIS in the US is truly, unbelievable. TRIS was going to be banned in children’s clothing in 1977 (over 34 years ago!), after a 2 year study  conducted by the National Cancer Institute showed that TRIS causes cancer in animals.  The Institute, back in 1977, found that “the chemical could be absorbed by children through the skin or by "mouthing" Tris-treated children's clothing” .   Before TRIS was banned, the manufacturers unanimously agreed to voluntarily removed it from children’s clothing after the study was published. 

TODAY?  Today TRIS  is the go-to replacement for another flame retardant of concern, PBDE,  in children’s foam products like nursing pillows, changing pads, bassinet pads, car seats, portable cribs and sleep positioners.  A recent study found  80% of new baby and children’s products tested positive for  Tris.  It is no surprise that researchers  have found  that infants who use these products (foam products with TRIS) have higher exposure to the chemical than the government recommends.


How do we ingest TRIS?
  • The problem with Tris  is that it doesnt bind to the products it is placed on... instead it can easily leach out of the clothes or the furniture, and accumulate in household dust. 
  • The dust in either inhaled by a passerby or falls onto a toy, food, floor, bed sheet etc. 
  • The contaminated dust in then touched by us or our children and later ingested by eating with our hands or by placing the contaminated toy or fingers into our you would expect young children are the most likely to be exposed because of their tendency to put toys and their hands into their mouths. 
Besides dust, Tris has also been found in indoor air, waterways, and breast milk.

Americans have been found to have  20 times higher blood levels of fire retardants than in Europe.  The European Union has designated this chemicals as a substance of very high concern because of evidence it could impair fertility.  Children in the US have been found to have 7 times the level of flame retardants in their blood as do children living across the border in Mexico, where retardants are less prevalent. ( April 2011 UC Berkeley)

Possible Heath Effects
Among the health effects possibly associated with high levels of fire retardants, including TRIS?

What Products Contain TRIS?
Products that contain toxic flame retardants are not labelled because it is considered a trade secret under U.S. Freedom of Information laws, but this specific flame retardant is usually found in products that contain  polyurethane FOAM,  This includes (but is not limited to):
  • car seats
  • nursing pillows
  • portable cribs
  • changing table pads
  • sleep positioners
  • upholstered furniture

The Good News
Some states, such as Washington State and Conneticut, have recently recognized how bad this substitute flame retardant is and are trying to pass state legislation that would ban this fire retardant  in products intended for children under 12.   New York banned TCEP (the group of chemicals that includes Tris) in baby products earlier last year (the ban goes into effect December 1, 2013)  In California,  it is classified as a known carcinogen.

 More good news? There are GREAT products for children and babies that do not contain flame retardants, including TRIS.  Read below for some recommendations.

The Bad News
Tris use has increased steadily in the last 2 decades in the United States, as industry has been seeking an alternative to the other flame retardant PBDE

 Oh yeah, and products that do not contain Tris or other flame retardants tend to be more expensive.

It's really easy to reduce your and your family's exposure to fire retardants, like TRIS, at home.  Follow this link to read my  Non-Toxic Munchkin's 123's : EASY STEPS TO REDUCE TRIS FLAME RETARDANT EXPOSURE AT HOME

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