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Is This Toxin in Your Home?
By Jennifer Morganti, ND, NEEDS Director of Education

Are flame retardants, used on furniture, building materials, and even childrens' clothes, really in the best interest for public safety? Most people probably believe they are, since they are designed to lessen the flammability of household items in order to slow the spread of a fire.

Unfortunately, there are a few reasons that our faith in these chemicals may be misplaced. First of all, fire retardants have been shown to double the amount of smoke produced when the item ignites, making smoke inhalation a serious health risk. This is an even more significant problem when you look at it from the perspective of a fireman. They are not only inhaling more smoke at every fire, but also, more of the dangerous fire retardant chemicals that come with that smoke. In fact, a fire fighter has double the risk of dying from cancer (due to this extra exposure to toxic chemicals) than dying while fighting a fire.

This highlights the biggest problem of all; PBDE, in the class of organohalogen fire retardants, has been proven to be quite toxic to our health and the environment. PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) has been in use for several decades as the primary fire retardant, but is now determined to be a toxic endocrine disruptor. It interferes with hormone production and function as shown in clinical research, causing health issues related to fertility, thyroid, metabolism, and even neurological function. Unfortunately, 97 percent of Americans have this chemical in their system.

In light of this risk to our health, PBDE is being phased out, but much of our older furniture still contains it and continues to pose a significant risk to our health. The chemical coats the foam cushioning of a couch, for example, and over the years, the chemical offgasses and distributes on the dust in our homes, which eventually makes its way into our body through ingestion and direct contact. PBDE especially builds up in our adrenal glands.

Although a little late in the game, a new study shows us how PBDE affects the adrenal glands. This study was done in a lab by adding the chemical to adrenal cells to see how they react. What they learned is that the cells pumped out much more of the adrenal hormone aldosterone then they should. Adolsterone regulates blood pressure by balancing salt and water in the body. The problem is that when PBDEs force the body to make excessive amounts of aldosterone, it leads to high-blood pressure and increased clotting. Over the long-term, it potentially can cause the heart muscles to thicken and lead to congestive heart failure.

There are hundreds of other studies on PBDE, showing how it also damages the thyroid, reproduction, and causes cancer. Fortunately, this chemical is being taken off the market, and hopefully all organohalogen fire retardants will be removed in the near future. (Yes, firefighters also support the banning of these chemicals). Our best bet for protecting our health in the midst of the toxic soup that we live in is to take nutrients that support the liver and our innate detoxification process.

Endocrine Society. "Common flame retardant chemical disrupts a hormone that is essential to life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2016. <
releases/2016/04/160404091227.htm>. our-toxic-homes/404722/

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