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6 Tips on Avoiding Fire Retardant Baby Items

By Jak Burke,

When you think about how much time our baby or toddler spends on the floor, putting items into their mouths and even chewing on furniture, it’s important to know two things: what chemicals are being absorbed by their developing bodies, and how can it affect them? Aside from chemical cleaners and lead paint, one of the biggest contaminants is to be found in what we once regarded as a safety measure: fire retardants. Scientific research indicates that exposure to fire retardants in early development (infancy) increases chances of a lower IQ, impaired motor skills and attention disorders. They are also carcinogenic.

According to EWG.org research: “Chemical fire retardants are common in consumer products. They are added to a wide variety of household items such as furniture, electronics, appliances and even baby products. While one class of fire retardants called PBDEs (for polybrominated diphenyl ethers) has been taken off the market due to toxicity concerns, it has been replaced with compounds such as TDCIPP (also known as “chlorinated tris”) and chemical mixtures such as Firemaster® 550. But this is not a victory, because these alternative chemicals are also linked to toxicity concerns such as cancer and endocrine disruption.”

If these chemicals are still around, how can we protect our children? Thanks to the EWG.org free guide here, we have been able to get these 6 excellent tips.

How to Avoid PBDE’s
(1) It sounds obvious but your first line of defense is to not buy any product for your baby that contains fire retardants. Tests show that fire retardants are used in some car seats, nursing pillows, changing table pads, crib mattresses, nap mats and other common products aimed at infants. So before you buy those items research which manufacturers don’t add chemical fire retardants to their products.

(2) Actively look for fire retardant-free upholstered furniture. Because of new regulations, furniture makers are now more able to advertize the fact that their products do not contain fire retardants. If you’re looking for a new sofa or table sets look for labels that state whether the products are fire retardant-free.

(3) Are you handy in the home-crafts department? Do you like vintage furniture? Don’t be tempted to reupholster old furniture. If you do need to refurbish antique or vintage furniture take it to a professional rather than do it yourself. Most old foam fillers or padding is likely to contain fire retardants. If you want to upgrade old sofas ask your upholstery professional to replace old foam with a fire retardant-free foam.

(4) If you have baby products filled with fire retardant foam make sure each item is fully covered up and sealed. This will protect your baby from dust or leached chemicals. Consider covering all of your baby’s cushions or baby carriers with some type of protective fabric.

(5) Buy a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. HEPA filters are more effective in trapping small particles and contaminated dust. A HEPA filter is good for removing other allergen-causing substances too.

(6) Be careful about pulling up old carpets as the foam underneath might be fragile. The padding can fragment and spread out as contaminated dust particles. These particles can be breathed in by your infant.

Want to buy fire retardant free products?
In 2014, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) surveyed leading baby product manufacturers on their use of flame retardant chemicals.  15 baby products were exempted from having to meet flammability standards since regulators found the products did not pose a fire risk.

In their survey the CEH asked manufacturers four questions:

1) Does your company currently sell baby products made with intentionally added flame retardants?
2) If some products still contain flame retardants, which ones?
3) What is your timeline to removing these flame retardant chemicals from your products?
4) How will you let consumers know that your baby products do not contain flame retardants — through labeling or (for web-based companies) information offered online at the point of purchase, or via product websites?

The companies responses were color-graded by CEH as follows:

Green Products do not contain flame retardants and are labeled online and at the point-of-purchase.
Yellow Products do not contain flame retardants, but are not labeled.
Orange Some products still contain flame retardants, companies are in the process of eliminating flame retardants.
Red Products may contain flame retardants (no response from manufacturer).

 

fire-retardant

 

To see this guide in high-resolution go here. (CEH)

 

Parent resources

EWG.org

CEH.org

image credit: Pearson Scott Foresman – Archives of Pearson Scott Foresman, donated to the Wikimedia Foundation→This file has been extracted from another file: PSF C-210005.png, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5522514

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