Buyer Beware

Buyer Beware
Buyer Beware


Go natural. Select carpets, carpet pads, bedding, cushions, and upholstered furniture made from naturally flame-resistant materials such as wool, polyester, and hemp.

Wash your hands to remove toxic-laden dust. Computers, monitors, printers, and copiers are all significant sources of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, which are flame retardants used in many commercial products. The chemicals are also endocrine disruptors that affect thyroid hormones.

To learn how consumer product changes might affect flame retardant levels in houses, in 2011, Silent Spring Institute scientists asked residents of homes they were testing whether furniture, electronics, or flooring had been added since the previous dust analysis five years earlier.

The researchers found that the levels of pentabromodiphenyl ethers, or penta-BDEs, fell significantly in homes that had added new furniture, electronics, and flooring, indicating exposure reductions when products were replaced after a PentaBDE phaseout years earlier.

The researchers found similar reductions in the flame retardant tetrabromobisphenol A, or TBBPA, in homes reporting new electronics.

In contrast, people who added new furniture between sampling rounds had an increase in the chlorinated “Tris” chemical TCIPP, suggesting it was being used as a PentaBDE replacement.