Is Fire Resistant Bedding Damaging Your Health?

What do your sofa,your carpet, your your mattress, and the mattress of your newborn, very fragile infant have in common? Each of them carries a level of toxins that you may not be able to imagine, and these toxins are not only allowed, they are forced to be a part of the things your infant lives with every day.

These toxic chemicals have become linked to very serious birth defects, to  cancer, to delays in neurodevelopment in young children and have also been linked to adult cancers as well.

You want your baby to do well and to be exposed to only the healthiest and cleanest of materials during these very important first few months.  When they sleep on a regular baby mattress, that may not be the case.

The Chicago Tribune did a series of investigative articles entitled “Playing with Fire.” In this series they state that. “

  • “The average American baby is born with 10 fingers, 10 toes and the highest recorded levels of flame retardants among infants in the world. The toxic chemicals are present in nearly every home, packed into couches, chairs and many other products.
  • Two powerful industries — Big Tobacco and chemical manufacturers — waged deceptive campaigns that led to the proliferation of these chemicals, which don’t even work as promised.”
  • Firefighters, parents, and concerned citizens believe that these chemicals don’t do what they say they should do and that using them is tantamount to risking your health for no reason at all.     This video and website helps to explain their stance on these chemicals.  If you’re interested in the movie or screening it, you can find more information at Toxic Hotseat

toxic chemicalsThe Consumer Products Safety Commission lists these chemicals as the primary toxins used in mattresses to meet current laws:

  • boric acid
  • formaldehyde
  • antimony trioxide
  • decabromodiphenyl oxide
  • vinylidiene chloride
  • zinc borate
  • melamine.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission also offers a downloadable pdf that permits you to read the abridged version of why you should be careful of the chemicals rated as flame retardant.

Download the Consumer Product Safety Commission Quantitative Assessment of Potential Health Effects from the Use of Fire Retardant Chemicals in Mattresses.

The saddest part is that there are alternatives. You don’t need this kind of a toxic cocktail to poison your family in order to stay safe.

A US Nationally Certified Firefighter 1 and Firefighter evaluator as well as ardent environmentalist believes that the reason for many of these laws may well be lobbyists in the United States. While in some cases the laws do not apply to force manufacturers to use the chemicals, they have not been banned, which would be better still. Those who pushed through unnecessary and very dangerous chemicals  years ago are slow or reticent to change the laws to ban these chemicals..

She says that” The more mattresses that are in a fire, the more toxic chemicals exist in that fire. What they have done is actively make the smoke far more toxic and deadly when or if there is a fire. ” The odds are that if enough fire retardant chemicals are invested in your mattresses and furniture, anyone inside that building will be poisoned and the 15 extra seconds ( yes, you read that correctly) that the high level toxic chemicals give the home owner to get out, will mean very little to them..

According to Dr Mercola of health site, there are obvious risks to fire safety providers as well as home owners from this type of toxic interaction. Female firefighters from the state of California have six times more breast cancer than any other group of women.

In other reports, most notably by expert Dr. James Sprott, OBE, a New Zealand scientist and chemist,   he believed that crib death is caused by toxic gases, which can be generated from a baby’s mattress.

He says chemical compounds containing phosphorus, arsenic and antimony have been added to mattresses as fire retardants and for other purposes since the early 1950’s. A fungus that commonly grows in bedding can interact with these chemicals to create poisonous gases (Richardson 1994).

These heavier-than-air gases are concentrated in a thin layer on the baby’s mattress or are diffused away and dissipated into the surrounding atmosphere. If a baby breathes or absorbs a lethal dose of the gases, the central nervous system shuts down, stopping breathing and then heart function. These gases can fatally poison a baby, without waking the sleeping baby and without any struggle by the baby. A normal autopsy would not reveal any sign that the baby was poisoned (Sprott 1996).

If you’re interested in what kind of chemicals you have in your home, we’ve done a little research  and found some remarkable items for your reading that may surprise you.

You’ll find links to studies done and countries that have effectively ended SIDS by the use of mattress wrapping. You’ll find studies that  detail how the chemicals in mattresses and pillows may be effectively ending lives and the coverups that are allowing it to continue.

Flame Retardant and Health Issues? ( retrieved from Wikipedia)

Nearly all Americans tested have trace levels of flame retardants in their body. Recent research links some of this exposure to dust on television sets, which may have been generated from the heating of the flame retardants in the TV. Careless disposal of TVs and other appliances such as microwaves or old computers may greatly increase the amount of environmental contamination.

A study conducted by Chevrier et al. 2010 measured the concentration of 10 PBDE congeners, free thyroxine (T4), total T4, and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in 270 pregnant women around the 27th week of gestation. Associations between PBDEs and free and total T4 were found to be statistically insignificant. However, authors did find a significant association amongst exposure to PBDEs and lower TSH during pregnancy, which may have implications for maternal health and fetal development.

A prospective, longitudinal cohort study initiated after 11 September 2001, including 329 mothers who delivered in one of three hospitals in lower Manhattan, New York, was conducted by Herbstman et al. 2010.[34] Authors of this study analyzed 210 cord blood specimens for selected PBDE congeners and assessed neurodevelopmental effects in the children at 12–48 and 72 months of age.

Results showed that children who had higher cord blood concentrations of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) scored lower on tests of mental and motor development at 1–4 and 6 years of age. This was the first study to report any such associations in humans.

A similar study was conducted by Roze et al. 2009 in Netherlands on 62 mothers and children to estimate associations between 12 Organohalogen compounds (OHCs), including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and brominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants, measured in maternal serum during the 35th week of pregnancy and motor performance (coordination, fine motor skills), cognition (intelligence, visual perception, visuomotor integration, inhibitory control, verbal memory, and attention), and behavior scores at 5–6 years of age. Authors demonstrated for the first time that transplacental transfer of polybrominated flame retardants was associated with the development of children at school age.

A study was conducted by Rose et al. in 2010[36] to measure circulating PBDE levels in 100 children between 2 and 5 years of age from California. The PBDE levels according to this study, in 2- to 5-year-old California children was 10 to 1,000 fold higher than European children, 5 times higher than other U.S. children and 2 to 10 times higher than U.S. adults. They also found that diet, indoor environment, and social factors influenced children’s body burden levels. Eating poultry and pork contributed to elevated body burdens for nearly all types of flame retardants. Study also found that lower maternal education was independently and significantly associated with higher levels of most flame retardant congeners in the children.

San Antonio Statement on Brominated and Chlorinated Flame Retardants 2010: A group of 145 prominent scientists from 22 countries signed the first-ever consensus statement documenting health hazards from flame retardant chemicals found at high levels in home furniture, electronics, insulation, and other products. This statement documents that, with limited fire safety benefit, these flame retardants can cause serious health issues, and, as types of flame retardants are banned, the alternatives should be proven safe before being used. The group also wants to change widespread policies that require use of flame retardants.

A number of recent studies suggest that dietary intake is one of the main routes to human exposure to PBDEs. In recent years, PBDEs have become widespread environmental pollutants, while body burden in the general population has been increasing. The results do show notable coincidences between the China, Europe, Japan, and United States such as dairy products, fish, and seafood being a cause of human exposure to PBDEs due to the environmental pollutant.

A February 2012 study genetically engineered female mice to have mutations in the x-chromosome MECP2 gene, linked to Rett syndrome, a disorder in humans similar to autism. After exposure to BDE-47 (a PDBE) their offspring, who were also exposed, had lower birth weights and survivability and showed sociability and learning deficits.

A January 2013 study of mice showed brain damage from BDP-49, via inhibiting of the mitochondrial ATP production process necessary for brain cells to get energy. Toxicity was at very low levels. The study offers a possible pathway by which PDBEs lead to autism.

Further Reading on Flame Retardants

  • I, Marsh G, Jakobsson E, Bergman A, Brouwer A. (2000). “Potent competitive interactions of some brominated flame retardants and related compounds with human transthyretin in vitro”. Toxicological Sciences. 56 (1): 95–104. doi:10.1093/toxsci/56.1.95. PMID 10869457.
  • Szabo DT, Richardson VM, Ross DG, Diliberto JJ, Kodavanti PR, Birnbaum LS (January 2009). “Effects of perinatal PBDE exposure on hepatic phase I, phase II, phase III, and deiodinase 1 gene expression involved in thyroid hormone metabolism in male rat pups” Toxicol. Sci 107 (1) 27–39. .doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfn230 PMID 18978342.
  • Butt, C; Wang D; Stapleton HM (2011). “Halogenated phenolic contaminants inhibit the in vitro activity of the thyroid-regulating deiodinases in human liver.”. Toxicological Sciences. 124 (2): 339–47. doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfr117. PMID 21565810.
  • Dingemans, MML; van den Berg M; Westerink RHS (2011). “Neurotoxicity of Brominated Flame Retardants: (In)direct Effects of Parent and Hydroxylated Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers on the (Developing) Nervous System”. Environmental Health Perspectives. 119 (7): 900–907. doi:10.1289/ehp.1003035. PMC 3223008free to read. PMID 21245014.

–Tiny Doses of Flame Retardants Have Health Effects According to Study,0,1401660.story

–Has The Cause of Crib Death (SIDS) Been Found? – Healthy Child-Jane Sheppard

Nov 15, 2013 – The prevailing official viewpoint on SIDS is that the cause is … in bedding can interact with these chemicals to create poisonous gases (Richardson 1994). … Their  report on organic crib mattresses

–Novel and High Volume Use Flame Retardants in US Couches Reflective of the 2005 PentaBDE Phase Out

–Rodale Wellness -8 Sickening Facts About Flame Retardants. FireFighters Sound Alarm on Toxic Chemicals.

  National Institute of Standards and Technology. Babrauskas, V.; Harris, R. H; Gann, R. G; et al. (July 1989), “Fire Hazard Comparison of Fire-Retarded and Non-Fire-Retarded Products” (Free PDF download available), NBS Special Publication 749, U.S. Commerce Dept. National Bureau of Standards (NBS)

  Guidelines for safe recycling BFR containing plastic developed by Stena recycling plant (Sweden) and BSEF, Autumn 1999. “Chemical companies, Big Tobacco and the toxic products in your home”. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 4 May 2013 Durbin urges action on hazardous flame retardants”. Chicago Tribune “Senate sees stalemate on flame-retardant furniture safety regs”. The Hill. “Senators call for closer look at flame retardants”. Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 4 May 2013.   According to Wikipedia  research, the desire for flame-proofing and flame proof materials is slightly waning but it is still in wide use, despite evidence that it can cause real health issues.

“In 2013, the world consumption of flame retardants was more than 2 million tonnes. The commercially most import application area is the construction sector. It needs flame retardants for instance for pipes and cables made of plastics. In 2008 the United States, Europe and Asia consumed 1.8 million tonnes, worth US$4.20-4.25 billion. According to Ceresana, the market for flame retardants is increasing due to rising safety standards worldwide and the increased use of flame retardants. It is expected that the global flame retardant market will generate US$5.8 billion. In 2010, Asia-Pacific was the largest market for flame retardants, accounting for approximately 41% of global demand, followed by North America, and Western Europe.”

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