FLAME RETARDANTS are compounds that can be found in different furnishings, products, and construction materials to reduce their flammability and thus increase the safety of the product. The most frequently used flame-retardants are polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). Flame-retardants are widely used in the plastic covers of electronic devices, in household linens, upholstered furniture, mattresses, insulating materials, floorings, and in many household products. They decay very slowly in the environment. They are fat-soluble and can therefore accumulate in living organisms. They enter our bodies mainly through the consumption of larger fish and foods with high fat content. At the same time they can enter the environment from products containing flame-retardants and so they can also be found in dust and indoor air. These compounds can also be absorbed through the skin by touching these objects and products.
The PBDE compounds influence the function of the thyroid hormone and can thus harm the development of the nervous system. Exposure during the foetal or infant stages can cause behavioural disorders, hyperactivity, and the impairment of the learning ability and memory functions. They can contribute to the development of disturbances in sexual functions; they harm the liver and are potential carcinogens. Foetuses and infants are at a higher risk because their nervous system and sexual organs are still in development and the PBDE compounds can enter the foetus and the mother’s milk from the blood of the mother. They also pose a risk to children playing on the ground because dust can easily enter their system. Flame-retardants also endanger animals and contribute to the significant population reduction of sea mammals. Some PBDE compounds have already been banned or restricted in the European Union. PBDE compounds can be replaced, but some of the replacement compounds have also proven to be harmful (e.g.: TPHP, TCEP, TCPP, TDCP).
We can reduce the concentrations of PBDE compounds by buying products with an eco-friendly certificate and that are PBDE-free. Predatory fish accumulate more unhealthy materials so it is better to consume herbivorous or smaller, less fatty fish. Avoid fatty food! Mothers should avoid dieting during breastfeeding, because then the harmful materials accumulated in the fat tissues of the body get into the mother’s milk. Regular wet cleaning and proper ventilation reduces the concentration of harmful materials in our homes. Instead of carpeted floors and machine made carpets one should buy simple woven or knotted carpets. When it comes to pillows, choose ones with fleece, feather, or polyester fillings instead of polyurethane foam. It is important to keep the protective covers of mattresses and upholstered furniture intact. Reduce the amount of e-waste through informed consumption. Don’t give cell phones and remote controls in the hands of small children!