Many of the products that we purchase for our home have been treated with flame-retardant chemicals.

Flame retardants are used to prevent or slow the growth of fire within our homes and workplaces, and many governments still have regulations in place that require manufacturers to use them in their products.

This may sound like a good thing. However, flame retardants are still chemicals – chemicals that are not without side effects that can negatively affect our health.

During manufacturing, consumer use and eventual disposal, these chemicals are released into the environment where they can remain in air, water and wildlife.

As of current scientific research, brominated flame-retardant chemicals have been linked to:

  • autism
  • birth defects
  • cancer
  • hyperactivity
  • infertility
  • learning difficulties
  • low sperm count
  • obesity

As growing children are apt to explore, touch and eat with their hands, it is also widely considered that children are the most vulnerable to these harmful chemicals.

Flame Retardants Found in the Home

There are many types of flame retardants, but two of the most common are brominated flame retardants and polybrominated diphenyl ethers.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, as well as polybrominated biphenyls, are particularly harmful and have now been banned in products sold within the European Union.

Unfortunately, many countries still enable (and require) manufacturers to use them.

Despite their purpose, toxic chemicals used as flame retardants can actually be ineffective in preventing furniture fires (fires will spread nonetheless). Not only that, but these chemicals can make the fire worse by releasing deadly gases and soot.

It may surprise you that our homes are full of products treated with flame-retardant chemicals. Some of these include:

  • plastic TV, computer and games console casings
  • mobile phones, MP3 players and DVD players
  • curtains
  • sofas, armchairs and mattresses
  • carpets and rugs
  • cushions, upholstered furniture and soft furnishings – including car interiors
  • wooden decking, furniture and flooring
  • children’s toys

As flame retardants are classed as persistent pollutants, they are not easily broken down; they can survive in the air, attach to our clothes and be ingested through breathing and eating.

Reduce the Risk of Fire in Your Home

Although a hassle, it is possible to purchase toxic-free products that are not treated with flame retardants – including furniture and children’s toys.

Another way we can reduce our exposure to the harmful effects of flame-retardant chemicals is to fireproof our homes as best we can.

We can better fireproof our homes by:

  • switching from gas to electricity for heating and cooking
  • fitting smoke detectors in every room (and regularly maintaining them)
  • buying fire extinguishers for each floor – especially for the kitchen
  • not smoking inside the home
  • not keeping fire-hazardous chemicals in the home such as lighter fuels, paint strippers and powerful toxic cleaners
  • never deep frying foods (burning hot oil is a big fire risk)
  • never leaving candles or oil burners unattended

Thankfully, we are learning more and more everyday that flame retardants, and toxic chemicals overall, are negatively affecting our health and adding to the looming universal problem of climate change.

To learn more on health, mental wellness, natural medicine and healthy lifestyle changes, visit Naturopath Australia.