More on the Hazards of Flame Retardants

My blog of April 7, “Toxic Flame Retardants in Your Home and Your Body,” needs an update: the situation is worse than I knew at the time.

Apparently polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) still is used as a flame retardant in some plastic products, but the biggest concern is with the widespread use of  chlorinated phosphates (called TRIS) – the same one that was eliminated from children’s clothing because it was found to be mutagenic and absorbed into children’s bodies.

A study reported in the Environmental Science & Technology Journal examined 102 household products (e.g., bedding, padding, pillows) for TRIS and other flame retardants. Only four products contained PBDEs. However, 43 products contained TRIS, which is a suspected carcinogen, causing tumors in kidneys and thyroid glands and cancers of the liver, kidney, and more. Both types of TRIS contaminate household dust, and are therefore easily breathed by infants crawling on floors. According to Wikipedia, TRIS is found in:

  • Automotive and furniture foam cushioning,
  • Baby gear such as strollers, nursing pillows, and rocking chair foam,
  • Upholstery, carpet backing, vinyl fabrics, and electronic enclosures.

Several consumer advocate groups are working to have California’s regulation (TB 117) modified or eliminated as it is the driving force for the continued use of TRIS in many common family products. You can help eliminate the use of TRIS by working with or supporting the work of the Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety.

If I were a mother, I would check the labels of products that contact my children to see if they are free of chlorinated or brominated flame retardants. (Note that over 50% of the products in the study did not contain TRIS or PBDE substances.)

I want to acknowledge an article “Toxic flame retardants found in baby products” in Featured Posts by Elizabeth Saunders, which brought this to my attention.


About donlouis

The author has long had a keen interest in staying healthy and fit, and in doing whatever I can to keep the natural environment unpolluted and a healthy space for people and all animals. As a former Board Member of a municipal water district, I regularly had to deal with the issue of water quality. I first became aware of radiation hazards from toxic materials while working on uranium for nuclear reactors. During the 1960s I was tuned into the global hazard from Strontium 90 raining down from atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs. While working in the chemical industry in later years I became aware of the many forms of chemical contaminants entering the environment every day, and resolved to do something about it. I am able to make sense out of the voluminous descriptions of common toxic chemical because of my training in chemistry, with a Ph.D. degree and several decades of research and development work in the chemical industry. My training and experience enables me to present to readers reliable and current information on the topic of chemical hazards in the environment, and their threats to human health. All my life I have loved hiking and camping in nature. Skiing, river kayaking, and tennis have been my favorite physical activities. Nature photography is my artistic passion.
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