Flame Retardant Chemicals: Here, There and Everywhere

Posted in: Chemical Education
By Sebastian
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Flame Retardant Chemicals: Here, There and Everywhere

Chemical flame retardants: we at Naturepedic don’t like them or use them and we've worked to ensure our mattresses pass flammability standards without them.

Depending on the specific compound, flame retardants have been connected to neurobehavioral issues, developmental disorders, endocrine disruption, reproductive health problems, diabetes, and even cancer.

Additionally, many of these chemicals can sneak past waste water treatments and pollute our streams, rivers and lakes. For these reasons, ALL Naturepedic products are free of chemical flame retardants.

Recent initiatives in California and elsewhere are attempting to reduce the use of flame retardant chemicals in couches and other upholstered furniture. These efforts have not yet been extended to mattresses, however, which use different testing standards.

Chemical flame retardants get past treatment plants and into our rivers and lakes

Nonetheless, did you know that chemical flame retardants can be found in a lot more everyday products than furniture and mattresses?

Cell phones and other consumer electronics, toys, carpeting, building materials, paints, even paper products (yes, paper) can all contain these problematic chemicals.

BizNGO, an organization promoting safer chemistries in business, estimates that four billion pounds of flame retardants are used globally by manufacturers each year. (For reference, this is about the equivalent weight of 1.25 million cars). Of that amount, two-thirds is used in plastics.

As BizNGO works to help companies reduce their chemical footprint, it asks companies to start at the beginning by asking: Is the flame retardant necessary?

As research grows regarding the effectiveness of flame retardants, flammability standards are changing and companies may find they no longer need to use them. If companies find they do require them, BizNGO encourages companies to use safer additives and polymers and even redesign products to reduce the need for toxic chemicals.

While the use of flame retardants is a complex issue, increasing public awareness is slowly leading some companies to seek safer alternatives. Apple and other electronics manufacturers, for example, have committed to build enclosures without brominated flame retardants. While plastics can contain a whole list of additives beyond brominated flame retardants, this is a move in the right direction.

The use of alternatives to dangerous flame retardants may ultimately be driven by consumer demand for safer products. Safer chemistries and products will arise from the interconnected efforts among informed consumers, companies, researchers, governments and organizations.

While consumers will likely never find an "ingredient" label on their new cellphone listing the flame retardants and chemical additives present in the plastic housing, through diligence and research (and a few letters to their government representatives) the people buying the products can ultimately effect change.

Here are just a few of our favorite sites for consumers wishing to research flame retardants and trends in safer products.

BizNGO

Center for Environmental Health

Environmental Work Group

HealthyStuff.org

Healthy Child Healthy World

Washington Toxics Coalition

6 years ago
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Flame Retardant Chemicals: Here, There and Everywhere

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