Flame retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are everywhere; they’re in your computer, toaster, mattress, TV, and sofa. The problem with PBDEs is that they don’t stay in their original place. They end up in household dust, soil, and human breast milk. (They’ve even been found in Arctic seal blubber!) And they accumulate inside our bodies.
Studies show that PBDEs cause developmental and neurological defects in lab animals. They can harm the developing brain, reduce male fertility, and disrupt hormone and liver function. Researches have reported that PBDEs affect the neuroendocrine system in humans as well.
“Long-term exposures to PBDEs may pose a human health risk, especially to infants and toddlers who are more likely to ingest household dust or acquire these chemicals through mother’s milk,” said Professor Margarita Curras-Collazo of UC Riverside, as reported by ScienceDaily. “How much PBDE in the body is considered safe is yet to be determined and will require further federal and state research funding.
“Due in part to our lifestyles – electronic equipment, car and airplane travel, computers – PBDEs bioaccumulate, increasing their concentration in human and animal tissues over time. They are difficult to get rid of, persisting in the environment and in our bodies.”
What’s even more menacing: when PBDEs burn, they can create dioxin, a deadly carcinogen.
Because of safety concerns, the following brands no longer include PBDEs in their new products: IKEA, Canon, Dell, Ericsson, Hewlett Packard, Sony, and Xerox.
To minimize your exposure to PBDEs:
Vacuum frequently with a HEPA vacuum cleaner.
Place a HEPA air cleaner in your bedroom.
Cover your mattress and pillows with allergen barriers to reduce exposure to dust that contains PBDEs.
Eat less animal fat (because PBDEs collect in fatty tissue).