Fire Retardants Linked to Developmental Problems in Children, Study Says


I can’t help but notice a real concern with the toxicity of fire retardants when I’m reading other’s blogs, articles, online consumer reviews and comments about crib mattresses and other children’s products. The concern is often focused on PBDEs, commonly used toxic flame retardant chemicals that are in just about everything. Should we be concerned? According to a unique study conducted by The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the answer is a very definite yes.

The researchers on this unique study analyzed the cord blood of 210 infants and then followed up for the next six years. The children were tested at 12, 24, 36 48 and 72 months for psychomotor development, mental development, performance IQ, verbal IQ and full-scale IQ.

The results showed that children with PBDEs in their cord blood scored significantly lower on the later tests. In fact, the higher the prenatal exposure to PBDEs, the lower the scores. Scores on some tests were as much at 10.9 points lower than the scores of children with less prenatal exposure.

PBDEs are widely used flame-retardant chemicals that are in everything from carpets, upholstery and drapery fabrics, children’s clothing, mattresses and furniture to appliances, insulation, building materials, computers and other electronic equipment.

How do PBDEs get into our system?

Because they are added to the products rather than chemically bound to them, they can be released into the air, lodge in dust, and anywhere else they happen to land, where they can be inhaled and even ingested.

PBDEs also don’t break down easily; once they’re in the body they tend to stay there. This also means they accumulate in the body with additional exposure and the levels just keep going up.

What can you do about it?

As the PDBEs in your home can be airborne, it’s important to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. But the most important step you can take is to phase out PBDEs in your own home. Instead, choose products that do not contain “PBDEs”, “brominated fire retardants” or “Deca.”

Many furniture manufacturers and stores, like Ikea, are conscious of the dangers of PBDEs and offer PBDE-free furniture.

For textiles – draperies, upholstered furniture, mattresses, and so on, look for fibers that are naturally fire retardant – organic cotton and wool are good examples. And always check with the manufacturer if there is no information on the label. All of our Naturepedic crib mattresses and other products are made with organic cotton and free of PBDEs and any other harmful chemicals, so that’s a good place to start in protecting your children.

If you’d like to read the full study, it’s available on the Environmental Health Perspectives website.

Anyone who is a potential father or mother should start getting rid of PBDEs and other harmful chemicals right now. Your child’s future depends on it.

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