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Avoiding Toxic Flame Retardants


Flame retardants have been all over the headlines this summer—especially since the Chicago Tribune published a series of articles exposing the chemical industry’s lies, deceptive science, and manipulative marketing to boost profits for their toxic and ineffective flame retardant products.

The toxic flame retardants we’re talking about are called PBDEs. They’re linked to a long list of health impacts, including hormone disruption, thyroid problems, and reproductive harm like undescended testicles, delayed puberty, reduced fertility, low birth weight, and birth defects. They also build up in our bodies and don’t break down easily in the environment.

PPDEs were marketed as chemicals that make household objects less likely to catch on fire (which sounds like a good idea). But it turns out that they aren’t even good at doing that!

Easy Ways to Avoid PBDEs

Reduce Exposure to Dust (where PBDEs collect)

  • Clean your home with a wet mop or microfiber cloth.
  • Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Remove your shoes at the door to avoid tracking chemicals inside.
  • Wash your hands several times a day, which has been shown to reduce PBDE levels in your blood significantly.

Choose PBDE-Free Electronics

Certain PBDE-free products are now available from Canon, Dell, HP, Intel, Erickson, Apple, Acer, Nokia, Motorola, LG Electronics, and Sony. Check out this report for ideas.

Reduce Your Animal Fat Intake (where PBDEs build up in animals)

  • Choose leaner meat or poultry cuts.
  • Choose cooking methods that remove excess fat, such as broiling, grilling, and roasting.

Look for Safer Furniture

  • Many companies such as Wal-Mart, Ikea, and Sam’s Club have eliminated PBDEs in their products. If you’re not buying from one of the above companies, email or call the manufacturer of the product you are interested in and ask them if they use PBDEs.
  • Choose furniture made with less flammable fabrics like leather, wool and cotton.

Want to learn more about PBDEs? Check out our fact sheet!

Find more non-toxic tips here.

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