All parents want to provide a safe and healthy environment to their children, especially in their home. However, the vast majority of consumers are not aware that they are unwittingly exposing their children and their families to increased risks when they purchase and use children’s products and many common household which contain organ halogens; a class of flame retardants, according to Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel of Consumer Federation of America.
Flame retardants have been promoted as lifesavers and have invaded into American homes, when tobacco and chemical industries fed the public’s fear of fire in order to encourage and expand the use of their chemicals in furniture, electronics and other household products, as it was revealed by a Chicago Tribune investigation in 2012. It was also found that several popular baby mattresses contained a number of toxic flame retardants, which manufacturers could have avoided using while complying with national flammability standards.
These toxic flame retardant chemicals are a growing threat to child and adult health and safety and they have been associated with a lot of serious health problems. Especially children are more vulnerable to the harmful fumes and dust they emit from children’s products, furniture and mattresses, because they like to put things in their mouths and play on the floor, so they come into greater contact with household dust than adults. According to studies, children have three to five times higher levels of toxic organ halogen flame retardants in their blood than their parents.
But, not only children’s developing brains and reproductive organs are at risk. These chemicals have been accused of causing a numerous serious human health problems, such as cancer, decreased sperm count, increased time to pregnancy, lower IQ in children, impaired memory, learning deficits, hyperactivity, hormone disruption and decreased immunity. And, even though they don’t actually provide meaningful protection from furniture fires, manufacturers continue to widely use them in household products. It is found that more than 97 percent of U.S. residents have measurable quantities of hazardous organ halogen flame retardants in their blood.
After the petition filed by a big coalition of health, firefighter, consumer and science groups in March, trying to persuade the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to help make children’s environments safer and secure their health, now six months later, the chairman of the CPSC believes that it is time to ban the use of these toxic compounds.
However, CPSC action on the petition is delayed waiting for the information from EPA flame retardant assessments, since EPA is responsible for regulating chemicals. Unfortunately, a nearly 40-year-old law ties officials’ hands allowing chemical manufacturers to sell products without evaluating their safety first and makes it practically impossible to phase out harmful chemicals after health hazards are documented.
We all want our furniture and children’s products to meet flammability standards, but without putting our health at risk by being exposed to hazardous and toxic chemicals. “Hidden chemicals in products for babies and children is a hazard no parent can protect their child from without help from regulators. We strongly support removing this class of flame retardants from children’s products”, Said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger.