Local Insights

Published on May 26th, 2017 | by Brielle Bleeker


Flame Retardant Dangers Lurk in Homes

Toxic flame retardants are everywhere in American households. Not only found in common home items including mattresses, furniture and sleepwear, but dust particles in the home have been found to contain trace amounts of more than 40 flame-retardant chemicals. According to a recent study conducted by the Silent Spring Institute, household dust is the primary way people, particularly children, are exposed. The study discovered carcinogens and hormone disruptors among other chemicals in the dust.

It is no coincidence then that thyroid cancer numbers are soaring, often effected by endocrine disruptors that can alter the normal functions of the hormonal system. According to Duke University environmental chemist Heather Stapleton, Ph.D., “There are a number of different pathways by which these chemicals can interfere with thyroid hormone regulation. We know that their use and our exposure to these chemicals, has increased tremendously over the past several decades.”

For too long, dangerous chemicals have been added to a huge variety of common items found in the home, yet consumers have been told these flame retardants are the safest way to prevent fires from rapidly spreading. What many people aren’t aware of is the fact that not only can furniture and other objects still catch fire, but the level of toxins released is far greater than that from items not treated when they do.

Children are most vulnerable to the effects these chemicals have on the body. Flame retardants can be found in toys, pajamas and furniture, and are associated with a number of risks such as neurodevelopmental delays, poor fine motor skills and lack of attention span. Not only are children affected, according to researchers, breastfed infants have also been shown to have significant levels of flame retardant chemicals in their systems.

According to David Spittal, owner of Healthy Choice Organic Mattress, in Ridgewood, expecting and new moms make up a large part of his clientele. Spittal says customers have often done their homework before coming to his store and want to provide the healthiest start to their new baby’s life. All Healthy Choice organic mattresses are made exclusively with certified organic wool and all natural Talalay latex—never with polyurethane foam—which is known to be carcinogenic. Spittal has done his research and as an industry expert, says, “This product line is the most healthy for both people and the environment being that it is sustainable and biodegradable.”

Fortunately, times are changing and people are becoming more aware of toxins and the best ways to avoid them. Dr. Doug Pucci, founder and clinical director of the Pucci Wellness Center, in Oradell, says, “While flame retardants are still in use, the industry is slowly moving toward product standards that are more non-toxic and safer.” Many environmental organizations are also working to eliminate toxic materials from the household and workplace. Health Care Without Harm, an international coalition and leading advocate for environmental health and justice, works with health care institutions to identify products containing flame retardants and helps make the switch to safer alternatives.

To limit or reduce exposure to flame retardants, choose carpets, bedding and upholstered furniture made from naturally flame-resistant materials such as wool. Ripped furniture should be repaired so not to expose polyurethane foam. Vacuuming regularly will limit the amount of dust. Buy children’s products that contain no foam and ensure that pajamas are labeled “Not Flame-Resistant.”

Pucci notes, “There is a significant amount of work that any patient can do to reduce exposure and detoxify the home and body.” His practice offers a chemical sensitivity test that detects antibodies to proteins that have these chemicals attached to them. “One of the first steps is to get the body to recognize these toxins as foreign, and then to provide a pathway out,” he says.

By looking at ingredients in everything from cleaning products to furniture to beauty products, people can make informed decisions on how to live a healthy, non-toxic life.

Healthy Choice Mattress is located at 14 Wilsey Square, in Ridgewood. For more information, call 201-857-3245 or visit hcmattress.com. See ad, page 5.

For more information about Dr. Doug Pucci, DC, FAAIM, practicing functional medicine, neurology and nutrition, call 201-261-5430 or visit GetWell-Now.com. See ad, page 3.

Brielle Bleeker is a contributing writer to Natural Awakenings magazine.

About the Author

Brielle Bleeker is a mother of two from Bergen County, a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and a contributing writer for Natural Awakenings magazine.

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