Your home, car, electronic devices and office are likely to be
laced with a surprising variety of toxic chemicals, including
fire retardants in many of the foam products your children
use and touch every day.
Here’s what you need to know to minimize your family’s
exposure to toxic fire retardants.
But wait, aren’t fire retardants a good thing?
so much. Manufacturers began fi lling consumer products with
them in 1975 when California issued Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117).
The regulations were aimed at reducing furniture fires, but in fact
they provided no fire safety benefits. Nevertheless, TB 117 soon
became the unofficial standard throughout the United States.
Happily, recent changes to the California standard have made
it easier for companies to meet the flammability requirements
without using toxic chemicals. But they’re still everywhere we
More common than you think
and a mixture known as Firemaster 550, among others. They
are frequently added to manufactured items that contain
polyurethane foam, and sometimes to the fabric covering them.
Furniture (especially couches) is a major source of exposure, but
the chemicals also turn up in various baby products, including
nursing pillows, changing pads and mattresses.
Health hazards: worse for children
The harm caused by fire retardants is well documented.
Published studies have linked exposure to developmental
challenges, infertility, hormone disruption and more; some fire
retardants are also suspected to be carcinogens. They build up in
humans, animals and the environment, and children are the most
vulnerable. Babies are exposed while still in the womb and again
through breast milk. Crawlers and toddlers ingest fire retardants
in the dust that gets on their hands when they play on the ground
or when they put toys and other items in their mouths.
Fire Retardants in Childrens Products