Where Are Flame Retardants Hiding in Your Home?
Of greatest concern are polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005. This includes a majority of upholstered furniture, mattresses, and pillows. The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) guide11 to PBDEs contains even more details about products in which these toxic chemicals might be lurking. Older carpet padding is another major source of flame-retardant PBDEs, so take precautions when removing old carpet.Your mattress may be of greatest concern since you spend a large amount of your life sleeping on it. As of July 1, 2007, all US mattresses are required to be flame resistant. Besides PBDEs, other flame-retardant chemicals currently approved for use in mattresses include boric acid, a toxic respiratory irritant used to kill roaches; antimony, a metal that may be more toxic than mercury; and formaldehyde, which causes cancer. Mattress manufacturers are not required to label or disclose which chemicals their mattresses contain. They may even claim that their mattresses are chemical-free, when in reality they are not… To avoid this toxic exposure, I recommend looking for a mattress made of either:
- 100% organic wool, which is naturally flame-resistant. Even if you hold a match to wool, it will self-extinguish in moments. This is why I use one of our wool mattresses, as it’s free of these dangerous fire retardants like PBDE
- 100% organic cotton or flannel also tends to be flame-resistant
- Kevlar fibers, the material they make bullet-proof vests out of, which is sufficient to pass the fire safety standards. Stearns and Foster is one brand that sells this type of mattressAlso use extra caution when purchasing baby products. In one test, about 80 percent of the baby items tested were found to contain flame retardant chemicals. Sixty percent of car seats produced in 2011 were also found to have them. Other baby items that may harbor toxic flame retardants include:
Nursing pillows Baby carriers Car seats Changing table pads High chairs Strollers Bassinets Portable cribs Walkers Baby tub inserts and bath slings Glider rockers Sleeping wedges
Protect Your Family by ‘Going Green’
As you replace PBDE-containing items around your home, select those that contain naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool, and cotton. Also look for organic and “green” building materials, carpeting, baby items, and upholstery, which will be free from these toxic chemicals and help reduce your overall exposure.In California, furnishings that are in compliance with the new flammability standards will carry a “TB 117-2013” tag indicating its compliance. Look for this tag, or ask the retailer whether a particular piece contains flame retardant chemicals. The Green Science Policy Institute has created a flyer12 summarizing the new flammability standard, and offers a list of retailers in and outside of California that sell chemical-free furnishings. The fewer toxins you surround yourself with inside your home, the less your chance of succumbing to the harmful effects of toxic overload.