PBDEs are everywhere, and there's some evidence connecting them to brain and developmental problems in animals, and possibly even cancer. Exposure to flame retardant chemicals is ubiquitous, but there are things you can do to keep the concentration of PBDEs in your body as low as possible. Here are some ideas pulled from the EWG research archives:
- Whenever possible choose PBDE-free electronics and furniture. PBDEs should not be in mattresses, couches and other foam products sold in 2005 or later. However they are still put in some new televisions and computer monitors. Our 2006 PBDE-free manufacturer and product list is a good place to start looking for electronics with out them.
- Avoid contact with decaying or crumbling foam that might contain fire retardants. This includes older vehicle seats, upholstered furniture, foam mattress pads, carpet padding, and kidâ€™s products made of foam.
- Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuum cleaner. These vacuums capture the widest range of particles and are good for reducing lead or allergens in house dust too.
- Replace couches, stuffed chairs, automobile seats and the like that have exposed foam. If you can't afford to replace them, cover them with sturdy cloth and vacuum around them frequently.
- Do not reupholster your older foam furniture, especially in homes where children or pregnant women live.
- Be careful when removing or replacing old carpet, since PBDEs are found in the foam padding beneath carpets. Isolate the work area with plastics and avoid tracking construction dust into the rest of your house. Pull out a HEPA vacuum to clean up when you're finished.
- The replacement chemicals for PBDEs in foam are not fully tested for their health effects. Buy products made with natural fibers (like cotton and wool) that are naturally fire resistant and may contain fewer chemicals.