Study finds toxic fire retardants in mothers & toddlers

In the first study to investigate children’s exposure to six fire retardant chemicals, scientists from Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Duke University found evidence of exposure to a cancer-causing fire retardant, TDCIPP, in the bodies of all 22 mothers and 26 children tested.

The children had an average of nearly five times as much as the mothers of a chemical formed when TDCIPP breaks down in the body. In the most extreme case, a child had 23 times the level measured in the mother.

Because fire retardants are in many consumer products such as furniture cushions and are nearly impossible to avoid completely, EWG put together this list of tips to help you and your family limit your exposure:

Do your homework before buying baby products.
Many kinds of baby products have been exempted from regulations that prompted companies to add fire retardants. But some manufacturers still use these chemicals. Find out before you buy and choose products that don’t contain any fire retardants.

When buying a new couch, choose one made without fire retardants.
New regulations make it much easier for furniture manufacturers to sell products that have not been saturated with chemical fire retardants. There is no easy way to tell which is which. Contact the manufacturer to ask if these chemicals are in its furniture.

Want to reupholster your couch? Replace the foam too.
If you are planning to reupholster your couch, consider replacing the foam at the same time. The old foam likely contains fire retardants. Ask your upholstery shop to find retardant-free polyurethane foam.

Inspect foam cushioning for damage.
Make sure cushion covers are intact, since exposed foam can cause fire retardant chemicals to leach out more quickly. Items like car seats and mattress pads should always be completely encased in protective fabric.

Use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter.
These vacuums are more efficient at trapping small particles and will likely remove more contaminants and allergens from your home. High efficiency “HEPA-filter” air cleaners may reduce particle-bound contaminants in your house.

Be careful when removing old carpeting.
The padding is typically made of scrap foam that contains fire retardants. Old carpet padding can become somewhat pulverized by the time it is exposed for replacement. Isolate the work area from the rest of your home.

The organization has launched a petition to the Consumer Product Safety Commission asking for national furniture flammability standards that do not encourage or require fire retardant chemicals that are toxic.

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