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Toxic Chemicals from Household Items & Clothing May Be Poisoning Children

UPDATED: January 28, 2009

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While every parent makes sure that household cleaning chemicals are safely stored away so that their children won’t be exposed to them, new studies are showing that toxic chemicals in household items and clothing meant to prevent fires may actually be poisoning children instead.

Children at the greatest risk

The toxic chemicals which can’t be stored away are found in items such as clothing, carpeting, furniture and the plastic used in electronics. While used as a means of fire retardant, these chemicals have been found in children’s blood streams – at a rate of three times greater than in adults.

Experts say that children are more susceptible to absorbing these chemicals because they do not wash their hands as frequently as adults, tend to play on carpeting or on furniture where the dust from the chemicals is exposed and wear clothing that is treated with these chemicals. In fact, studies have shown that children’s brains and reproductive systems are extraordinarily vulnerable to toxic chemicals as children are still in the developmental stages of life.

Which chemicals are involved?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization that advocates for health protective and subsidy-shifting policies on Capitol Hill, conducted a study that found concentrations of chemicals known as PBDEs (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers – used as flame retardants) in 19 of 20 families studied.

The EWG also found that PBDE levels were significantly greater in children ages one and a half to four years of age – as much as three times greater than those found in their mothers. In fact, the study showed that these chemicals were greater in children than in their mothers a startling 86% of the time.

While many of these chemicals have been banned, a PBDE known as deca-BDE continues to be used. The European Union banned the use of deca-BDE in the plastic components of televisions and computers in 2006 and a handful of U.S. states have already banned its use or proposed legislation to do so. Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not studied the matter as intently as the European Union or that handful of U.S. states has, although it has said that it plans to in the near future. For now, experts say that keeping household dust to a minimum and washing your children’s hands frequently may help in minimizing the problem.

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