Flame Retardant Chemicals May Affect Kids’ Health


Chemicals used in the manufacture of furniture, carpets, plastics, electronics and other household items made before 2004 may create health problems for kids, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health.

These chemicals, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), were first applied in the 1970s to home products to make them flame resistant, including furniture, electronics and carpet. The practice ended in 2004 after scientists determined that kids exposed to PBDEs were at higher risk for physical and mental development issues, including poor attention span, motor skills and IQ scores. Although the practice ended nearly a decade ago, many products treated with PBDEs still may be in use.

Scientists report that PBDEs are inhaled or ingested (in the form of dust) and usually reside in fat cells. The chemicals can remain in the environment and people’s bodies for many years.

To avoid exposure to PBDEs, experts at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City suggest that for household items manufactured before 2004, seal up tears on furniture, regularly mop and vacuum household dust and dirt, and frequently wash hands. For newly purchased furniture, choose products made with cotton, wool or polyester. Avoid chemically treated foam and look for products marked “flame-retardant free.”

Learn more about flame-retardant chemicals by reading the following articles:

Flame Retardants in Furniture, Carpets Might Affect Kids’ Development

Flame retardants may affect a child’s attention, IQ

PBDEs: Information for Pediatric Health Professionals