There is presently Bill 6516 before the Connecticut General Assembly that aims to prohibit the sale and distribution of children’s products containing flame-retardant chemicals.
It is extremely important to get toxic flame retardants out of infant and children’s products. Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI) believes that with this ban there should be an an exemption for children’s car seats.
EHHI wrote a research report in 2013 on the health risks posed by flame retardants. That report can be found here.
The report recommends that states restrict flame retardants in children and infant products because the toxicological studies show that flame-retardants pose a risk to the normal growth and development of fetuses, infants and children. Because Infants and children are so small, their exposures to flame retardants, in relation to their body weight, is very high. The health risks that all infants and children are experiencing from flame retardant exposures far outweighs the risk of fire.
Children have four to five times the level of exposures to flame-retardants as adults due to their small body size.
Historically there have been continuing health problems with one flame retardant after another — starting with asbestos. When asbestos was declared a human carcinogen, the country moved onto another flame retardant, this one called “Tris.” “Tris,” was put in children’s pajamas in the 1970s until it too was declared a carcinogen and was finally banned from children’s pajamas in 1977.
Amazingly however, “Tris,” is now widely used in many other baby products. According to a 2011 study looking at the presence of various flame retardants in baby products, “Tris” was the most common flame retardant added to infant products — other than children’s pajamas.
Flame-retardants have the ability to cross the placenta and therefore get into the cord blood of fetuses. The ensuing baby gets another dose of flame-retardants through the mother’s milk. And then the infant gets exposed again because most infant products, such as their mattresses, changing tables, nursing pillows, baby carriers, and car seats all contain toxic flame retardants.
The flame retardant story is one of substituting one harmful flame retardant for another – and then that one ends up equally harmful. This continues because flame retardants are poorly tested, if tested at all, before they enter the market place. Some flame-retardants are neuro-toxic, some are carcinogenic, some some are hormone disrupters and some affect the thyroid gland.
Penta BDE was widely used in the 1980’s, substituting an earlier one that was found harmful — then it was phased out in 2005 because it too was found harmful to health. It was found to be bioaccumulative, affect the thyroid gland, the immune system and had the ability to be a neurotoxin. Now FireMaster 550 has replaced it. NIH has found Firemaster 550 to be an endocrine disrupter. It has not been tested for its ability to cause cancer, affect reproduction or neurological development.
Consumer products that contain flame-retardants are not labeled as such — and this is also a problem. Environment and Human Health, Inc. is asking that consumer products be labelled with a tag that says, “This product contains a chemical flame retardant” or “This product does not contain a chemical flame retardant.” Only when consumer products are labelled, will consumers will the ability to protect themselves and their children from flame-retardant exposures.
Flame retardants should only be used in “high-risk” situations, such as airplanes, cars, trains – which is why we are asking for an exemption for children’s car seats. All other children’s products should not contain flame retardants and all consumer products should be labeled.
Again, the health risks that all infants and children are experiencing from flame retardant exposures far outweighs the risk of fire.
Nancy Alderman is President of Environment and Human Health, Inc.
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