Study Finds All Toddlers Have Toxic Flame-Retardants On Their Hands

Study Finds All Toddlers Have Toxic Flame-Retardants On Their HandsOne study conducted out of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, found that 100% of surveyed toddlers had traces of flame-retardants on their hands. On average, toddlers had higher levels of exposures to these toxic chemicals than their mothers, who were also tested at the same time. The study was based out of New York City, which is where all of the test subjects resided.

What Are Flame Retardants?

Flame-retardants are used to reduce the flammability of many household materials. It is required by law manufacturers add them to plastics, textile and foam products. This includes a number of products babies and toddlers have regular contact with, such as nursing pillows, car seats, crib mattresses, strollers, baby carriers, changing pads and so forth. Plus, your carpets are made with flame-retardants too, and just think about all of the time babies and toddlers spend on the floor.

In the 1970s, manufacturers began adding PBDEs (persistent brominated flame-retardants) to a whole host of household products including couches, chairs, textiles, electronics and so forth. They did so in order to comply with new flammability standards. In 2004, the older PBDEs were phased out and newer alternatives were put into place, including TBB and TBPH, both are components of the commercial mixture Firemaster 550®.

TBB and TBPH are classified as brominated flame retardants, and despite the fact they are incorporated into almost every household product you purchase, there is little factual knowledge regarding their health effects on humans. Researches have found links to reduced fertility and endocrine disruption in animal models.

This is especially alarming considering flame-retardants don’t stay put, instead they escape into the air where they co-mingle with dust. When we breathe dust in and out, we are also breathing in flame-retardants. These toxic chemicals are transported into our food, end up all over our hands and are virtually unavoidable.

The Study: 100% Of Toddlers Have Flame Retardants On Their Hands

The Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health study involved researchers going out into the community and visiting the homes of 25 mother-child pairs. All of the people in the study were enrolled in the CCCEH Sibling-Hermanos birth cohort, which originated in 2008. The children in the study were 3-years-old at the time their hands were swabbed for signs of flame-retardants, researchers swabbed the mother’s hands at the same time in order to compare results. Researchers also took dust samples from inside of each participant’s home. All swabs were sent to the lab for analysis.

The results were shocking, showing 100% of home dust samples included newer brominated flame-retardants as well as older phased out PBDEs. On average, the amount of TBPH and TBBs were higher than PBDEs. 100% of hand samples revealed traces of flame-retardants.  For the most part, children had higher levels of all types of flame-retardants on their hands compared to their mother.

This isn’t the first study to uncover these alarming facts. Other studies have also found that toddlers tend to have greater exposure to flame-retardants than adults. One of the main reasons why? Toddlers spend so much time crawling on the floor—where all of the dust floats down. Plus, there are flame-retardants in carpet where their little hands frequently land, they jam their fingers in their mouth and will chew on or lick just about anything.

Whitney Cowell, the study’s first author and a PhD candidate in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia’s Mailman School said: “The extent to which young children are exposed to these chemicals is cause for concern given the known neurodevelopmental risk of PBDEs and the potential toxicity of their substitutes.”

Julie Herbstman, senior author on the study and associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences said, “Toddlers are being exposed to replacement flame retardant chemicals that we know little about. Future research needs not only to focus on understanding the toxicity of these compounds, but also on how exposure occurs in the home and what behaviors and policies can be used to reduce personal exposure.”

How To Reduce Your Toddler’s Exposure To Flame Retardants

Not only are children more susceptible to coming into contact with flame-retardants, but also researchers believe they are more impacted by potential damages. Toddlers are rapidly developing and every exposure plays a role in the fragile developmental process. Unless you go 100% off the grid, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid all contact with flame-retardants. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help reduce your toddler’s exposure:

-Wash your child’s hands regularly, especially before they eat, as well as after playing on carpeting and handling products containing flame-retardants.

-Regularly dust all surfaces to remove traces of flame-retardants.

-Regularly use a wet mop or vacuum with a HEPA filter attachment.

-Do all that you can to stop your child from chewing on products that contain flame-retardants.  

-Wipe down and vacuum the interior of your car whenever it gets dusty. Your car seats and dashboard contain flame retardant chemicals as well.

You can read the full study here:

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