New Report on Exposure to Flame Retardants

In the late 1970s, flame retardants, suspected to be carcinogenic, were removed from children’s pajamas.

Today, research chemists report that flame retardants appear in 80% of the 101 baby products they tested.  Nearly one third of the products contain chlorinated Tris, which mutates DNA and may be carcinogenic.  Some contain TCEP, which California has designated a carcinogen.  Others contain Penta-DBE, which builds up in human tissue and is banned in many countries, but not the U.S.  Some of the retardants are organophosphates, similar to banned pesticides that are known to harm developing brains.

These chemicals are showing up in the polyurethane foam of changing table pads, mattresses, high chairs, baby carriers, car seats and other items.

Manufacturers are not required to label products with flame retardants.  They do not have to list the chemicals they use.

What can you do?

— Be wary of anything that complies with California’s flammability standard.  Passed in 1975, it requires that polyeurethane foam in furniture be able to withstand an open flame for 12 seconds without catching fire.  Last year, the state exempted strollers, nursing pillows and baby carriers from this standard, but it isn’t clear if manufacturers have stopped using retardants in these products.

— Avoid products made of polyurethane foam.

— Seek organic polyester/cotton-based pads.

— Run the vacuum. Flame retardants break away from furniture and appliances and accumulate in household dust.  Babies ingest a high proportion of this dust because of the time they spend crawling around the floor and sucking on their hands.  In my home, we vacuum frequently in the areas where Sweet William plays.  We also wash his hands regularly.

— Share this information with other parents.

— Learn about the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.

— Read more here: 

“Chemical Suspected as Carcinogen Is in Baby Products,” New York Times, 5/17/11.

“Array of flame retardants found in baby car seats, changing pads, other items,” Environmental Health News, 5/17/11.

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