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PBDE in furniture and carpeting put kids at risk

Is your carpet putting your kids at risk?

As a parent or grandparent, it’s only natural to want to make your house a safe space for a busy little toddler.

You’ve probably already cleared out all the harmful household products he could get his hands on. You’ve made sure that curious little hands meet safe, smooth plastic when they grope at outlets. And while unsteady steps might still lead to a few tumbles, you’ve made sure sharp edges are smoothed and hard surfaces are softened.

But I bet you’ve never given your couch or carpet a second glance during your baby-proofing blitz. After all, they’re perfectly safe, right?

Unfortunately, these seemingly safe parts of your home may be anything but. In fact, they could be harming your toddler’s development. The culprit is a class of chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Ironically, they’re supposed to make your home safer: manufacturer’s started applying them as flame retardants in the 1970s.

Researchers based at the University of California, Berkeley, found that exposure to these chemicals can affect fine motor coordination, attention, and IQ in kids who had been exposed in utero and during childhood.

Sadly the scientific community has known for a long time that PBDEs may disrupt the endocrine system. This latest study is simply the largest one to look specifically at the development of the brain and nervous system.

Once researchers started uncovering the dangers of PBDEs, many states did the right thing and banned the chemicals. But if your couch or carpet was made before 2004, it may contain PBDEs. And they’ve even shown up in food like the case I told you about a couple of years ago when they popped up in butter, of all places.

The truth is, a full 97 percent of us have the chemicals in our blood thanks to decades of exposure. And they’re still clearly affecting kids.

If you bought your couch in the 80s or 90s, or if your carpet hasn’t been updated in a while, your home could be exposing the children in your life to PBDEs. This is especially true if your sofa is made of foam, which will release more of the chemicals as it disintegrates.

If you don’t have the money to replace your furniture and carpeting, the researchers suggest sealing any tears in furniture and cleaning regularly to keep levels of dust down. They also suggest making regular hand-washing a household policy.

If you’re on the market for a new couch, choose cotton, wool, or polyester over foam that’s been treated with chemicals. You can also look for household products that are free of flame retardants. I’m a big fan of IKEA partly because everything they make is free of PBDEs and many other harmful chemicals.

Sources:
“Flame Retardants in Furniture, Carpets Might Affect Kids’ Development,” Medline Plus (www.nlm.nih.gov)

“Flame Retardants Used in Foam Upholstered Furniture and Other Products Linked to Neurodevelopmental Delays in Children,” Science Daily (www.sciencedaily.com)