Dangerous Body Invaders: Flame Retardants

Which is the bigger danger, fire in the home, or toxic fire retardant chemicals?

In the vast majority of homes, the risk from fire is extremely low because it is very unlikely to occur. The risk from fire retardant chemicals is much higher because they are present everywhere and they are toxic to your body’s health. Of course, if you or your babies smoke in bed, their risk of serious burns is much higher!

I have written before about this important topic (April 7 and May 19), but new information continues to emphasize the appreciable hazard to health from flame retardant chemicals. Here are a few titles:

  • Are you safe on that sofa?
  • Identification of flame retardants in polyurethane foam collected from baby products.
  • New evidence for flame retardant’s role in autism.

With a little conscious effort, anyone can keep pesticides out of their garden and lawns, out of their food, and out of their neighborhoods. But not so with flame retardants, because they are in everyone’s homes – in furniture and bedding foam, in infant’s bedding, and in automobile foam cushioning.

This issue is of such importance that 150 scientists from 22 countries convened in 2010 in San Antonio, Texas to address the health threats from brominated and chlorinated flame retardants. Considerable data indicate that many chemicals of this type are carcinogenic, reproductive and developmental toxicants, neurotoxicants, and endocrine disruptors. A July 10, 2012 article by the Environmental Health News states that, “For the first time, scientists have reported that the environment and genetics can work together to create autism-like symptoms in mice exposed in the womb to a flame retardant.”

You may ask, “How is it that chemicals known to be toxic are mandated by law to be added to many household products?” Nicholas D. Kristof answered this in a New York Times article (May 19, 2012). He describes how cigarette lobbyists secretly organized the National Association of State Fire Marshals and guided its work in pushing for flame retardants in furniture. An advocacy group “Citizens for Fire Safety” later pushed for laws requiring fire retardants in furniture. Kristof continues, “But Citizens for Fire Safety has only three members, which also happen to be the three major companies that manufacture flame retardants: Albemarle Corp., ICL Industrial Products, and Chemtura Corp.

Laws that mandate flame retardants in many household products CAN be changed. In California, after relentless pressure from a few legislators and several nonprofit organizations, the governor is considering action to eliminate regulation TB 117 which requires flame retardants in furniture and bedding materials. Personally, you can support the work of the Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety.

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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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