Time to Rethink Flame Retardants
By Meredith Salmi-Bydalek, The Arc Greater Twin Cities
Think all those children’s products in your house are safe? Think again. A new report released by the Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States finds an alarming rate of toxic flame retardants are being used in children’s products sold in major retailers across the country. The groups tested 20 children’s products at Duke University containing polyurethane foam, which is often treated with flame retardants, including changing pads, car seats, and nursing pillows. Researchers found toxic flame retardants in 17 of the 20 products, and 16 of these products included chemicals from the “Tris” family.
The most common Tris flame retardant found in these products was chlorinated Tris, or TDCPP. Sound familiar? It was phased out of children’s pajamas in the 1970’s due to health concerns and has made an alarming comeback as a replacement flame retardant for penta-BDE (banned in MN and other states). Studies have shown it to mutate some cell lines, disrupt hormones, and cause harm to the nervous system. Yikes!
These toxic flame retardants are not chemically bound to the products they’re used in, meaning they end up in household air and dust. Any parent knows that children love to explore their surroundings by crawling on the floor and putting anything in their mouths. This means their chances of exposure to icky chemicals like chlorinated Tris are much higher.
Surprisingly, the only state with flammability standards is California. Other states do not have similar standards, nor require the use of flame retardants. The only exception is car seats which are monitored for flammability by federal standards. So what’s a parent or concerned citizen to do?
Alternatives do exist but are limited and take some work to find. Busy parents don’t have time to research each product before shopping to ensure it is safe. What we really need is reform of our current chemical laws to ensure that one toxic chemical isn’t replaced by another in children’s products and our kids are kept safe. The Safe Chemicals Act currently making its way through U.S. Congress will do just that: Phase out the most toxic, persistent chemicals used in everyday products.