Organic Consumers Association

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Health Dangers of Flame Retardants

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our Appetite For a Change page.

 The U.S. implemented fire safety standards in the 1970s that over time have led to more and more products adopting the use of toxic flame-retardant chemicals (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs) to meet the stringent regulations.

 PBDEs, which are similar in chemical structure to the now-banned PCBs, are now widely added to furniture foam, plastics for TV cabinets, electronics, wire insulation, and back-coatings for draperies and upholstery, and plastics for personal computers and small appliances.

 As flame retardants, the chemicals help to slow ignition and rate of flame growth in the event of a fire, giving you more time to escape.

 But since these toxins are not chemically bound to the plastics, foam, fabrics and other materials to which they're added, they easily leach out into your home, and are also contaminating air, soil and waterways during their manufacture, use and degradation in landfills.

 As a result, this "public-safety measure" has backfired, and now people, including children, are being exposed to high levels of these toxic chemicals in their everyday lives, and suffering serious health consequences as a result.

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