Thursday, April 5, 2018

Guess Who Has The Highest Levels of Flame Retardant Chemicals?

Some good news and some bad news regarding children and flame retardant chemicals.  

The good news? 

A new study  by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health found that levels of one of the most toxic, and previously most used, flame retardant chemical classes- PBDE-  declined in children between the years 1998 and 2013.   PBDE's have been associated with, among other things,  attention problems and lower scores on tests of mental and physical development in children.  These chemicals used to be the primary flame retardant chemical in furniture between 1975 and 2004 to comply with fire safety standards, but due to their health risks and persistence in the environment, pentaBDE, a specific technical mixture of PBDEs was phased out of use in couches, mattresses, carpet padding, and other upholstered products  in 2004.

Lower levels of a known and toxic flame retardant is good news- but more needs to be done... as Julie Herbstman,  one of the researcher in the study explains "What we find is that as exposure comes down, the number of attention problems also go down,” Herbstman says. “Or the reduction in IQ is less severe. So I wouldn’t say that there’s a safe level, but I’m certainly happy to see lower exposures, because lower is certainly better.”

The bad news?

While the levels have declined dramatically, all the tested children still had PBDEs in their blood... nearly 10 years following their removal from U.S. commerce!  The reality is that many families still have furniture purchased pre 2004 that contain these toxic chemicals at home, including sofas, children's  car seats and other household items. 

Also, all the children also had other flame retardant chemicals in their blood (many not as widely studied as PBDEs) - surely chemicals being used as substitute/alternative chemicals.  

Who had the highest levels of all flame retardant chemicals?

Researchers looked at 335 mother- child pairs and the kids with the highest concentrations of PBDE in their blood were the 2-3 year olds.  One possible reason? This age group generally spends more time on the floor and have more contact with dust at this age.

What Should I do if I have pre 2014 furniture at home?

Flame retardant chemicals are notorious for not "sticking' to the product they are placed on and tend to migrate to dust- which children (and pets) then touch and ingest.

To keep all flame retardant levels low in your home:

1.  dust frequently
2.  use a wet mop or a vacuum with a HEPA filter
3.  wash hands with plain (fragrance free) soap and water
3.  Avoid walking indoors with shoes.  Instead, take them off right when you walk in.  

For more information on the dangers of flame retardants, the current flame retardant laws and how to choose a piece of furniture   without flame retardant chemicals please read our post:  WHERE AND HOW TO BUY FLAME RETARDANT FREE FURNITURE

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