In a shocking report from the Environmental Working group ( apparently young children had as much as three times the amount of the chemicals used for fire retardants as their mothers did!
PBDEs, (or polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are the chemicals used to make products fire-retardant. They are considered to be “hormone-disruptors” and are especially worrisome for young children because of their developing brains and organ systems. PBDEs have been shown to cause neuro logical behavioral changes including hyperactivity, as well as thyroid disorders. Furthermore, small children ingest more PBDEs than adults because young children put so many things in their mouths.
Two forms of PBDEs known as Penta and Octa are no longer made in the U.S. because of health and safety concerns, but still exist in older furniture and foam items (such as mattresses). The largest volume of PBDEs known as Deca are used in electronics which is banned in European electronics and in some U.S. states. However, Deca continues to be widely used in this country despite the warnings, and Penta, one of the PBDEs banned earlier, can still be found in imported furniture.
Until changes in the regulations pass, it is important to consider alternatives to flame retardant products. Notably, learn about your child’s pajamas and mattress.

  • 1. In the United States, children’s sleepwear sized 9 months to 14 years must meet certain flammability requirements. The requirement is intended to protect children from burns. To meet the regulatory flammability requirements, children’s sleepwear must either pass certain flammability tests, or be tight fitting and meet certain specifications as to dimensions.
    If the fabric is synthetic it has flame retardants because all synthetic materials have flame retardants added. Chemically treated fabrics have a chemical flame retardant added to the sleepwear. In contrast, most synthetic fiber sleepwear has a flame retardant inserted into the fabric fiber, including most polyester fabrics. To avoid flame retardants in children’s sleepwear look for snug fitting natural fiber pajamas, such as cotton. Sleepwear that is snug fitting meets flammability standards because the child will theoretically avoid having a stray sleeve catch fire.
  • 2. Your Furniture and Mattresses: most foam mattresses and furniture contains flame retardants. That does not mean you have to throw out all your belongings, but consider getting tight fitting covers for over the furniture and mattresses. The company where you purchase your furniture should be able to provide you with information about the chemicals used in their materials. Going forward, purchase pieces that don’t contain foam or in which foam is wrapped in layers of natural fibers. For most of us who cannot afford to replace all the furniture, cover it with a wool, hemp or linen to create an additional barrier to the foam.
  • 3 Cleaning: limit your exposure to PBDEs by using a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter and a damp mop to keep household dust in check. Wash your children’s toys often in warm water.

Posted by NatalieGeary | Filed Under Dr Geary 

Natalie Geary