Recent studies have pointed to the potential dangers of certain flame retardants, spurring lawmakers and agencies to activate new rules concerning these products. While these products help protect against sudden combustion, they may pose serious health risks.
Flame Retardant History
Flame retardants depend on the chemical reaction that prevents flammability when products are treated with these chemicals. Flame retardant chemicals became more popular in the 1970s and have since been applied to a wide variety of consumer products including:
- Television sets
- Personal computers
- Couch foam, carpets and drapes
- Electrical cables
- Baby and children’s products
In 1977, one flame retardant, brominated tris, was banned from being used in child’s pajamas once researchers discovered the chemical could damage DNA. Similarly, two other flame retardants, penta and octa, were banned from the United States market in 2004. However, some flame retardant chemicals that were removed from children’s pajamas are still being used on other baby products and household goods.
Some flame retardants pose a health risk because they escape as airborne particles that stick to product surfaces. Other chemicals are released when treated products are recycled or thrown away. These chemicals can permeate soil and sediments and enter the water supply.
A number of recent findings have connected flame retardants to serious potential health concerns. After extensive research, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to commence rulemaking that would outlaw the use of a specific flame retardant on certain products, including baby products, mattresses, furniture and enclosures. This particular type of flame retardant is believed to cause neurological problems, hormone disruption and cancer. While some pieces of new furniture with this halogenated flame retardant have a warning label, no warning label is provided on baby products or mattresses.
A study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University revealed that exposure to certain flame retardants can harm a child’s social behavior and development, including increased instances of aggression, hyperactivity, inattention and bullying.
Another study found that a class of flame retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers lead to such medical conditions as advanced puberty, reduced fertility, delayed physical development, delayed mental development, thyroid disruption and memory problems.
When products containing dangerous flame retardants pose an unreasonable risk of harm to consumers and damages occur, claims regarding product liability may be lodged against negligent manufacturers.