Recent studies show that flame retardants, typically found in couches, mattresses, and foam blocks, are very harmful. In fact, your very own couches may even kill you in the long run. The types of people who are most exposed to these chemicals are gymnasts and firemen. One, gymnasts always exposes themselves to foam blocks during trainings. Two, firemen expose themselves to fire retardants when they get into buildings, houses, and other edifices on fire. Both scenarios have a common bottom line – the release of chemicals thru pressing and burning, which are then inhaled by these people, causing them long term diseases that are often detected a decade or two after continuous exposure to it.
Why do manufactures make foams with fire retardants?
To understand the presence of these fire retardants in our foams, it is imperative that we first know the reason why manufacturers incorporate these substances in their products. From its name alone, these chemicals are utilized to inhibit or stop the spread of fire. This explains why most mattresses don’t catch fire easily. However, when we talk about fire retardants, we don’t refer to one chemical only. The chemicals involved include the minerals aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide, borates, paraffins, organohalogen compounds, and many other dizzying chemicals that only God knows what. While we want manufacturers to zero out their products of flame retardants, they certainly cannot do it breezily since laws require them to have it in certain items like furniture, textiles, electronics, and insulation.
It should be noted that in 2005, US manufacturers willingly ceased producing foams with brominated fire retardants because the European Union fought very hard to ban the chemical from its products. Polybominated diphenyl ether is the main component of this chemical, a substance that is shown to cause endocrine disruption, neurological woes, and fertility issues.
One of the biggest woes of consumers is the drastic effects that fire retardants can contribute to human health. In the recent study, which is mentioned above, experts found out that these compounds are not chemically bound, and they have the potential to join the air even without burning or immersing the object in the water. This is the main reason that people could still get affected by the chemicals’ negative impact to one’s health even when they only sit on their couch or sleep on their mattress. Nevertheless, sitting on the couch is way less of an exposure than actually inhaling the chemicals on fire like what firefighters do, and landing on foam pits and block foams on face like what gymnasts experience every day. The foams are compressed every minute, and such activity can release the chemical compounds little by little, which can literally grow overtime.
Let’s take for example the story of a gymnast who has troubles conceiving. In her tests, a medical practitioner found out that she has high levels of fire retardants in her blood, causing her to experience fertility issues. On the one hand, a survey showed that gymnasts have more levels of fire retardants in their body compared to non-gymnasts who participated in the survey. A test was also conducted to check a gymnast’s natural level of exposure to the chemicals pre and post practice. It was shown that their bodies have lower levels of fire retardants prior to practice, which increases after the training. The regular increase of the chemical in their body can add up and cause several health woes later in life.
Another pressing issue concerning fire retardants is an ex firefighter’s battle with a rare cancer called transitional cell carcinoma. Experts note that such illness is quite uncommon, and industry workers are the ones who often experience this type of disease. Later did he know that his profession exposes him to high levels of fire retardants, particularly during fire fighting scenes when they had to snake through buildings and edifices in blazing fire. When polyurethane foams are on fire, fire retardants are released to the air in tremendous amounts, which are then inhaled by people in the nearby area. Because of this, firefighters are exposed to the said chemical even without knowing it.
How to avoid exposure to fire retardants?
Because of the negative results that flame retardants can cause to our body, it is imperative that we find means on how to avoid exposing ourselves to products that contain them.
- 1. Keep mattress covers intact and replace any misshapen or scratched covers. Always buy foams that are secured with protective covering.
- 2. Opt for vacuums that have HEPA filters. These don’t only clean dusts, dirt, and small particles from the environment, but also trap chemicals from the air.
- 3. Be an eco-friendly consumer by buying cushions and mattresses that are made from all-natural materials. If you can’t find any, check the fire retardants used by the manufacturer on their products.