Airing Dirty Linen

Airing Dirty Linen
Airing Dirty Linen

Try This at Home

Do not clothe children in flame-retardant pajamas. Instead, choose snug-fitting cotton sleepwear that does not carry a flame-resistant label.

Get involved. At the national level, Congress is considering the Safe Chemicals Act to make sure chemicals are tested for safety before going into use. To learn more, visit the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Green Science Policy Institute websites.

Flame retardants have been detected in human blood, urine, and breast milk; in indoor and outdoor air; in food; and in wildlife around the world.

The chemicals also accumulate and linger in household dust, sometimes winding up at levels of health concern. That was a central finding of a Silent Spring Institute study, the first to test for a wide range of flame retardants in homes. The scientists found that California residents in the study were exposed to a wide range of flame retardant chemicals in house dust. Most homes had dust concentrations of at least one chemical above a health guideline. Some of the chemicals with the highest levels in homes were carcinogens.

The scientists note that consumer products—such as clothing and other textiles, furniture, and electronics—often contain flame retardants. These chemicals can shed into house dust, which then becomes a major source of exposure, particularly for children.