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SafeMama Rewind: PBDE’s

By Kristie Turck •  Published 09/05/08 •  3 min read

Last updated on August 20th, 2022 at 12:28 am

The other day on Dear SafeMama, we made a  mention of PBDEs also known as Flame Retardent Chemicals.  These chemicals are used to make products less flamable. That sounds great. But the trade off is now these products, your couch for instance, are laced in chemicals.


I was able to attend a call with the good folks over at EWG regarding their new report on the risks of PBDEs in the home and in children.  You can read their full report here. Here is a snippet.

Why are kids levels higher? Not surprisingly, these elevated levels are caused by childhood exposures to household items containing PBDEs, a class of fire retardant added to household furniture and electronic items. Yes, the living room couch, that comfy reading chair, and your laptop where the kids watch videos or type their letters. And it all happens through that childhood habit we all know so well: hands and stuff in the mouth. Kids ingest roughly 10 times more PBDEs than adults from hand-to-mouth contact.

Also not surprisingly, levels are higher in the U.S. because other countries don’t require fire retardants and our stringent fire safety standards protect us from potential fires but not from guaranteed chemical toxicity.

The call itself was a real eye-opener.  I’ve long been aware of the hazards of flame retardants, but I don’t think I understood the ramifications of them.  Especially until I had a child.  But as with any chemical, they’re toxic to small children whose systems are still immature.   Sadly, there’s not a whole lot being done in the U.S. in regards to the regulation of PBDEs.  There are three different types:  Penta, Octa, and Deca.  Penta and Octa are no longer allowed in the U.S. but the loophole is that it’s not illegal to import them, which means that most of your conventional furniture still most likely has PBDEs as it’s imported.

All hope is not lost though.  There are measures that you can take to help reduce PBDE exposure in your home.

How To Reduce Exposure to PBDEs Flame Retardent Chemicals

Of course, you could always move into a mud hut….. just kidding.  Maybe.

Further Resources on PBDEs:

Fact Sheet from the CDC

Can My Couch Give Me Cancer by Time Magazine

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