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Flame Retardants Dangerous 
for Children

Dangerous flame retardants continue to be present in a variety of children’s products. Despite efforts to ban these toxic chemicals, flame retardants are still commonly found in everything from pajamas to mattresses. Although it is possible to limit exposure, it’s impossible to avoid it completely. Flame retardants have been associated with numerous ailments and serious health issues including learning disorders, decreased IQ, infertility and cancer.

It may seem puzzling to many that these chemicals are still prevalent in some manufacturing, however when taking a closer look, the reasoning becomes apparent. The chemical industry spends millions of dollars supporting the use of flame retardants because it believes that the bigger problem is the fire the chemicals supposedly protect children from. But, in fact, products made with the flame retardants can and still do catch fire and release higher levels of toxic chemicals. In fact, firefighters are at the top of the list of those seeking a permanent ban on this type of chemical.

While many people agree that a ban on flame retardants is necessary, Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, campaign director for Washington Toxics Coalition, states, “Protecting children from fire doesn’t require exposing them to toxic chemicals.” Unfortunately, there are always chemicals that children will be exposed to, but banning even one could help and potentially start a strong movement to ban all of them. When the effects of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) are combined with other chemical exposures such as pesticides, the results can be serious and long-lasting. Numerous tests have revealed startlingly elevated levels of flame retardants in the breast milk of American women, significantly higher than that of women in European countries, where PBDE is not allowed. In addition, flame retardants were present in every sample of household dust in a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group. Not only are dust particles able to be inhaled, but dust easily ends up on children’s hands and mouths.

With the fact that flame retardants aren’t required to be specifically labeled, parents have a difficult job of deciding which products are safe and won’t cause harm to their children. David Spittal, owner of Healthy Choice Organic Mattress, says, “For those interested in sleeping in a chemical-free environment, simply make sure polyurethane is not listed as an ingredient on any mattress.” Maine recently passed a law to phase out all flame-retardant chemicals in home furniture, possibly paving the way for more legislation to ban PBDE.

In the meantime, research all products. Alternative materials such as cotton and wool are better options than chemically treated foam. If an item is labeled, “This article meets the flammability requirements of California,” don’t buy it. Shockingly, many baby products need to be avoided because they contain plastic foam. Highchairs, strollers, car seats and nursing pillows are among the many that may contain harmful flame retardants. According to Spittal, a large part of his clientele are moms seeking “the healthiest start to their baby’s life.” Using a HEPA filter vacuum is helpful in cleaning up chemical-filled dust. Being educated and aware of the harm flame retardants can cause can help a person to make informed decisions when it comes to protecting their children.

Healthy Choice Mattress is located 361 Springfield Ave, in Summit. For more information, call 201-857-3245 or visit

Brielle Bleeker is a journalist for Natural Awakenings magazine.


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