I have often wondered about flame retardants and the long term and more serious health effects they might cause. Used in textiles, as foam in couches, baby products, building insulation, carpets, drapes, personal computers, TV sets, car dashboards, electrical cables and countless other products, they are pretty difficult to avoid. A recent article from the Health and Science section of the Washington Post sheds some light on specific health problems associated with flame retardants. Author Liza Gross writes:
Synthetic chemicals added to consumer products to meet federal and state flammability standards are showing up in waterways, wildlife and even human breast milk.
The potential risks of flame retardants have been known for some time. In 1977, brominated tris was banned from use in children’s pajamas after researchers showed that it could damage DNA in animals. Two PBDEs, penta and octa, were pulled from the U.S. market in 2004. But another chemical that was removed from pajamas decades ago based on evidence that it could mutate DNA is still being used in furniture and some other baby products.
Flame retardants rely on chemical reactions that counteract or inhibit the flammability of treated products. Since the 1970s, they have been applied to textiles, foam in couches and baby products, building insulation, carpets, drapes, personal computers, TV sets, car dashboards, electrical cables and many other products.