Consumer products, such as electronics and furniture, often contain flame retardants, which are chemicals that inhibit the spread of fire. The downside to these chemicals is that they can become trapped in common dust particles and then distributed throughout the house. This process is particularly concerning for parents because young children crawl on the floor and touch everything, including putting their fingers into their mouths.
A scientific study of several years ago conducted by the Silent Spring Institute (SSI) demonstrated that Californians had higher levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in their systems than the national average. Furthermore, the study proved a correlation between those levels and the state’s unusually stringent flammability standard for furniture. The good news was that PBDEs were being phased out in California and throughout the country, but the bad news was that the alternatives were not considered safe either.
SSI followed up that study by researching how exactly people were being exposed to these chemicals. This secondary study revealed beyond doubt that the primary culprit in transmitting flame retardants and exposing people to them was common house dust. In fact, the researchers found a surprising array of unique chemicals in the house dust, some of which were carcinogens and others that were hormone disruptors.
The vast majority of homes that SSI tested exceeded state health guidelines, and two of the most prevalent chemicals were very dangerous carcinogens that had been included in California Proposition 65, which was passed in 1986. Levels of these substances were highest in homes that had new flooring, furniture and electronics, despite these consumer products using Firemaster 550, which replaced the PentaBDE that was banned by Prop 65. Firemaster 550 continues to be labeled toxic and is still on the market.
The Frank R Lautenberg Chemical Safety 21st Century Act passed several months ago gives the EPA more oversight to monitor chemicals that are carcinogens and cause other serious health problems but flame retardants in the home are still a very serious concern.
With that in mind, here are a series of tips that can help you to protect your family from exposure:
Use a HEPA air purifier, which is the most effective way to remove airborne particulates such as dust from the home. HEPA filters remove 99.97 percent of all particles down to 0.3 microns in size, and all dust particles are larger than 0.3 microns.
Manage dust levels. It’s not possible to eradicate dust completely, but you can maintain it at non-dangerous levels with a regular cleaning regimen. Dust frequently with a damp cloth or a microfiber cloth, and after dusting, vacuum with a cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter.
Whenever possible, choose consumer products that are made from materials that are naturally flame resistant, such as cotton, down and wool.
If furniture is ripped or damaged, repair it or replace it immediately. If the inner foam is exposed, then the furniture can be releasing flame retardants into the environment at a dangerous rate.
Wash hands, especially kids’ hands, frequently. Most flame retardants enter our bodies through our mouths from our fingers.
For children, buy snug pajamas made from naturally flame-retardant materials. Avoid pajamas that have been treated with chemical flame retardants, which are usually indicated by a big yellow tag.
Those seemingly harmless dust bunnies can actually contain many hidden dangers. They can trap pollutants and chemicals, and then emit them into the home for years to come. This is particularly concerning in homes where children are present or a resident suffers from asthma or allergies. Stop taking unnecessary chances. Remove toxic dust from your home right now by purchasing a HEPA air purifier.
Clean Air Plus is a veteran and family owned small business. We represent the leading manufacturers in HEPA filtration including Austin Air, IQAir, Amaircare, Oransi and Airpura. Shop online or call one of our friendly experts at 888.247.1147. We'll be happy to help.