Tips on Reducing Exposure to Toxic Flame Retardants
One of the most memorable pieces of advice I received when I was pregnant with my baby girl, was to prepare myself for the worry. I was told that “parenthood is a constant state of complete joy and utter terror.” Seven years later, I still experience these two emotions daily. Does the worry of parenting ever subside? I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the answer is “No”.
A recent survey by Richard Day Research found that new mothers feel nervous about a lot of things: healthy sleep routine, healthy eating habits, gas, colic, exposure to germs and viruses…If you’re a parent, you know what I mean. We parents obsess! But are our worries legitimate? Considering a large number of hazardous chemicals persistently polluting our environment and toxic substances off-gassing from everyday products we use, new parents have every right to be concerned, and even to obsess a little.
Fresh parents expect the products they buy for their babies to be safe. Unfortunately, a recent study conducted by Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States found that this is not the case, and obsessing about your children’s well-being may prove to be healthy.
Washington Toxic Coalition together with Safer States tested newly purchased baby and children’s items from major retailers including Babies R Us, Sears, Walmart, and Target. Products were purchased in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Washington State. All of the products tested contained polyurethane foam, which is commonly treated with flame retardants in many types of products. Analysis of the foam found toxic flame retardants present in 17 of the 20 items tested.
The most prevalent flame retardant found was chlorinated Tris (TDCPP). Toxic Tris flame retardants are bad news. In the 1970s chlorinated Tris was voluntarily removed from children’s pajamas when it was found to cause adverse health effects. In October 2011 California classified chlorinated Tris as a carcinogen, and evidence links the chemical to cancer, neurotoxicity as well as hormone disruption. New York State has banned TCEP in products for children under three. The ban goes into effect December 1, 2013.
Several products in the study did not contain Tris flame retardants, demonstrating it is possible to make products without these toxic chemicals. Products that tested negative for Tris flame retardants were: Eddie Bauer Pop-up Booster Seat, Balboa Nursing Pillow, and First Years Co-Sleeper. Other companies that are known to not use Tris flame retardants include Boppy, Orbit Baby, and Baby Bjorn.
Hidden Hazards In the Nursery
Your nursery is the room that is the most loved place in the house. It is also the room where you and your infant will spend most of your time. In a typical day most moms spend three or more hours in the nursery with their little ones. [i]
But is your nursery safe? New parents have enough to worry about without knowing the exact levels of toxic flame retardants off-gassing from the crib mattress. In some ways it’s easier not to know. However, what you don’t know may harm you and your precious bundle of joy. Needles to say it is important to inform yourself about the dangers of flame retardants and to learn how you can detox your new nursery.
These following tips may assist you in reducing your family’s exposure to toxic flame retardants (source:Washington Toxic Coalition)
- Avoid all products containing polyurethane foam with a label reading TB117, which means it has likely been treated with toxic flame retardants.
- Buy furniture from companies/manufacturers that use naturally fire-retardant materials. Look for companies that avoid the use of toxic chemicals, like Ekla Home, EcoBalanza, Soaring Heart, Furnature, Bean Products, Abundant Earth.
- Choose a safe mattress. Wool is naturally flame resistant and is free of flame retardant chemicals.
- If you are allergic to wool, the second best option is cotton and latex. Cotton and latex mattresses are typically wrapped in naturally fire resistant barrier cloth or may be treated with a flame retardant such as boric acid. It is important to ask, before buying, if any additional flame retardants were used.
- Stay away from polyureathane foam which is the least healthy choice, and typically is used in mattresses, including memory foam mattresses. It is important to ask, before buying, which flame retardants have been applied.
- If you can afford an organic cotton mattress, consider Naturpedic’s mattresses, or make your own at Organic Grace.
- If you cannot afford an organic cotton mattress, consider purchasing a barrier that envelopes your mattress completely and blocks, to a certain extent, the chemicals being released during off-gassing. One of the most reputable companies for a mattress cover is BabeSafe.
- Buy nursing pillows, car seats, and baby carriers made without Tris – better brands for baby items include Baby Bjorn, Orbit Baby, and Boppy.
- Trust your nose: furniture that has a strong smell may be emitting substances that may be harmful for the human body. It is advisable to leave new furniture in the fresh air (e.g. the garage, balcony) or in an unused room for about two weeks before using it.
- Clean and remove dust particles daily to keep them from being inhaled or ingested.
- Disinfect germ hot spots (floor, changing table, toys and laundry hamper) at least once a day to kill any harmful bacteria that may be lurking. Make sure to focus on these key areas more than others when disinfecting in the nursery.
- Use only natural cleaning products.
- Buy flame retardant-free PJs.
More to come: How to Detox your Nursery Part 2: Green Your Floors
In the meantime, here are some interesting articles to read about the subject and get informed:
Sources: Washington Toxics Coalition, Safer States and Richard Day Research
Do you have any helpful tips or thoughts to share?