Safer States have a brilliant map showing which states have current policies, adopted policies or both regarding toxic flame retardants. It shows exactly what each bill bans or prohibits.
On the surface, flame retardants sound great. Chemicals that keep products — couches, clothes, crib mattresses — from burning can only make us safer, right? Wrong. Flame retardants have been linked to health concerns from cancer to thyroid issues. They build up in all of us, and, sadly, especially in the firefighters who inhale them on the job, leading to higher cancer rates. Firefighters and others are coming together to try to remove these toxic chemicals from our everyday products.
Flame Retardants in our Lives
Toxic flame retardants are one of the most common sources of toxicity in our homes and our lives. They are used on everything from computer casings, to furniture, to carpeting, to children’s products. Many people remember when chlorinated Tris, one toxic flame retardant, was banned from children’s pajamas in 1977. But that same chemical is now showing up in other equally-dangerous-yet-still-fair-game uses — including the crib mattresses and nursing pillows that cradle vulnerable children. And flame retardants don’t stay in these products — these chemicals leach out, and get into people and pets. The very dust you sweep up from your floor contains toxic levels of flame retardants.
Flame Retardants in our Bodies
Flame retardants leach out of products, and accumulate in our fatty tissue. It’s a pervasive problem — even down to our pets! Testing from the Centers for Disease Control found certain brominated flame retardants in nearly all of the samples collected. And once they’re in our bodies, they do damage. Studies have linked flame retardants to a host of biological and neurophysical ailments, including endocrine disruption, decreased fertility, lower birth weights and developmental/cognitive problems in the next generation.
Progress to Protect Health
For a downloadable version of the history of policy on toxic flame retardants, click here.
A dozen states have passed over two dozen policies banning toxic flame retardants, from Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs — twelve states) to chlorinated Tris (three states). More importantly, we’re looking at ways to get off the toxic treadmill of substituting one bad chemical for another, and looking at the overarching flame retardant requirements, and what they do and don’t protect us from. The Chicago Tribune‘s award-winning “Playing With Fire” series helped reveal the back channels of this fight, leading to increased awareness and action on this critical issue.