Carpet

Rather than produce fire-safe cigarettes, a clandestine group of cigarette lobbyists organized the National Association of State Fire Marshals, which over the last several decades has successfully pushed an agenda to enforce the use of flame-retardants in many items found throughout our homes including furniture, carpeting and electronics. This has led to extremely volatile chemicals such as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenylethers) producing toxic dust that can make us extremely sick. With all that we know about chemicals including pesticides and the plastic polymer, bisphenol-A, there are more reasons than ever to make efforts to minimize flame-retardant exposure in your home.

Experts suggest that common flame-retardants are producing side effects far too similar to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) that have been banned around the world because of the number of human health risks which include decreased IQ, diabetes, reproductive, developmental and behavioral disorders. These chemicals, which are purported to prevent the spread of fire, exist primarily in polyurethane foam-based products and household electronics. Here’s how you can minimize your exposure:

Polyurethane foam products produced after 2005 most likely do not contain PBDEs, thanks to efforts by organizations including the Environmental Working Group, which got them pulled from foam furniture due to the rising rates of contamination. EWG recommends carefully inspecting items pre-2005, such as carpet padding, beds, couches and particularly items used for children, that could contain polyurethane foam for tears or rips. Replace covers of anything with a rip or that shows misshapen or broken-down foam. EWG recommends never reupholstering foam furniture and being careful when removing old carpets. Keep work areas isolated and well aerated.

Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. These vacuums are more successful in collecting the dust and other contaminants from the foam that can cause physical problems. HEPA air filters can also help clean the air and rid your home of lingering chemicals.

When purchasing electronics including TV components, cellular phones, printers, scanners and printer ink, or household items such as kitchen appliances, fans, heaters, hair dryers, curtains and water heaters, opt for brands that have made commitments to remove brominated fire-retardants including Acer, Apple, Eizo Nanao, LG Electronics, Lenovo, Matsushita, Microsoft, Nokia, Phillips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony-Ericsson, Toshiba, Panasonic.

Research products before you buy and ask about the products you’re purchasing if unsure.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Resources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/20/opinion/sunday/kristof-are-you-safe-on-that-sofa.html

http://www.ewg.org/healthyhometips/fireretardants

Image: koadmunkee