You already know that too much sitting can increase your risk of heart disease. Now it turns out that your couch might increase your risk of cancer, too. There√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęs a hazardous amount of flame-retardant chemicals in everyday household objects, including many chairs and sofas, according to two articles published online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
In one study, researchers tested household dust for the presence of 49 different potentially hazardous flame-retardant chemicals. It was the first study to test such a broad range of the chemicals. The researchers discovered 44 out of 49 flame retardants in the homes they tested, and 36 were detected in at least half of the samples. They also found that most homes contained at least one such chemical at levels above federal health guidelines. Among major health concerns, these toxins have been linked to forms of cancer, hormone disruption, and learning disabilities.
Sadly, the chemicals aren√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęt easy to trace and oust--many items aren't labeled, and it's not easy to get your furniture tested for the presence of these chemicals. √É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ö‚ÄúUnfortunately, they√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęre not obvious,√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√ā¬Ě says study author Robin Dodson, Sc.D, of the Silent Spring Institute (an organization that studies the health effects of environmental toxins). √É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ö‚ÄúThey√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęre found in furniture, electronics and carpet padding. The sources are all around. The retardants√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ę effects are mostly associated with the thyroid system, and a particular concern for neurological and reproductive development in children.√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√ā¬Ě The second study looked at the presence of these chemicals in couches.
Some of the chemicals have been banned in certain circumstances, but are still found in homes. Such is the case for the carcinogen TDBPP (brominated √É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ö‚ÄúTris√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√ā¬Ě), which is no longer used in children√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęs pajamas due to the health dangers√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨‚ÄĚlike harm to DNA, and mammary tumors that may cause breast cancer√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨‚ÄĚbut is still found in about 75 percent of households in other products.
Unfortunately, tossing all your furniture and rugs and starting over is impractical. However, there are a few practices can lower your exposure to flame retardants until you get a chance to replace your old stuff with new, safer stuff. Dodson recommends taking these steps:
Repair furniture rips Flame retardants are often added to the polyurethane foam fillings in your couches and chairs. Ripped upholstery increases the likelihood that you or your kids will be exposed to the chemicals. Get any rips fixed stat to minimize exposure.
Go natural When choosing new furniture, avoid polyurethane foam, a common filler in couches, chairs, and rugs that often comes treated with flame retardant. Instead, select pieces made from natural materials like wool, wood, and down products--it's significantly less likely that these pieces have been doused in the flame-retardant chemicals.
Check labels Labeling requirements are in place for some flame retardants, so you can check garments, upholstery and furniture for big, yellow tags that indicate they are not flame resistant and not treated with the chemicals. If an item has a yellow tag, that means it√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęs safe from the chemicals in question. (That said, you√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęre not going to want to light candles anywhere nearby).
Declare war on dust The chemicals are mostly transmitted from furniture to human via dust, and crawling kids are extremely susceptible to exposure. Since dust is the key source of retardants, clean countertops and surfaces often. Vacuum, especially where children crawl, to keep dust at bay.
Wash up Always wash your hands after cleaning, and try to cleanse after touching common surfaces or the floor, as well. Remind children to soap up, and wipe the hands of toddlers and babies who spend a lot of time on carpeting. They are particularly at risk for the developmental issues that may result from the chemicals.
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