Last Friday, The Washington Post reported that Wal-Mart will stop selling all products that include polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs.
PBDEs, a popular flame retardant compound, were invented to slow the spread of fires. Unfortunately, the PBDEs don’t attach to polymers in products and end up spreading in the environment – either during the manufacturing process, or afterwards when the flame retardant product degrades or is disposed.
That means when you lie on a mattress or sit on a couch, PBDEs are released into the air as dust. When you turn on a television and it heats up from use, more PBDEs are released. Infant car seats have PBDEs in the foam. Appliances like refrigerators, water heaters, hair dryers, and dishwashers include PBDEs to prevent the spread of fire. The plastic casing on electronics like cell phones, computers, TVs, and remote controls are covered in PBDEs. Upholstered furniture, foam carpet padding, foam cushions, and pillows contain PBDEs, too.
In other words, toxic remnants from flame retardants are all around us.
Three kinds of PBDEs – penta-, octa-, and deca-bromodiphenyl ether, commonly called Penta, Octa, and Deca – were used in most flame retardants, but Penta and Octa were banned because of toxicity and safety issues. And Deca is banned in Europe because it’s so toxic. Yet Deca products still are produced and sold in the United States.
In fact, more than forty percent of all Deca used is in North America.1 While there are few restrictions for using Deca, some manufacturers (including Acer, Apple, LG Electronics, Microsoft, Nokia, Phillips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony-Ericsson, and Toshiba) have discontinued use of the chemical. Phosphate-based alternatives are safer retardants, as well as other chemicals that do not include bromine or chlorine. 2
In banning PBDEs from their merchandise, “Wal-Mart is stepping ahead of federal regulators and using its muscle as the world’s largest retailer to move away from a class of chemicals researchers say endangers human health and the environment,” writes Lyndsey Layton of The Washington Post. 3
Wal-Mart will begin testing its products on June 1 to verify the absence of PBDEs.
What’s coming up
I’ve only scratched the surface of flame retardants. Please join me the rest of this week as I explain how we’re exposed to PBDEs, how we can prevent exposure, and the link between PBDEs and SIDS.
Latest posts by Hilary Kimes Bernstein (see all)
- The Day I Realized Healthy Choices Don’t Guarantee Health - July 21, 2015
- Avoid Synthetic Bug Sprays with All-Natural Repellents - July 16, 2015
- The Day I Learned I Could Cook Real Food - July 13, 2015