Are Toxic PBDEs Lurking in Your Mattress?

Posted on November 11th, 2011 by Elaine Rosales  |  36 Comments »

pbde in your mattressIf you live in California, chances are your upholstered furniture and bedding products are flame-retardant because of strict fire safety standards. But did you know that the material used for these products may be dangerous to your health? Dr. Joseph Mercola warns that flame-retardant furniture and bedding products may be filled with polybrominateddiphenyl ethers (PBDEs)that are toxic to your health.

Pregnant Women and Children are Greatly Exposed to PBDEs

A recent study observed pregnant women in California in their second trimester and found that they have the highest ever reported levels of PBDEs worldwide. The study also revealed that this chemical interferes with thyroid function (link).

In a separate study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, it was discovered that California children have PBDE levels that are seven times higher than those found in Mexican children (link). Another study noted that California children have levels that are 10 to 1,000 times higher than European children, and five times higher than other American children (link).

Dr. Mercola warns that this is also a rising problem in other parts of the U.S. because stringent fire safety standards are now causing more and more products to use PBDEs to meet regulations. This is why almost 97 percent of Americans have significantly high PBDE levels in their blood.

Health Dangers of PBDE Exposure

Dr. Mercola says that PBDEs disrupt the hormone-releasing mechanism in your body. It also alters calcium signaling in your brain, which is very important for learning and memory. Another study also said that PBDEs are linked to decreased fertility, probably because of thyroid disruption. PBDEs can decrease your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and lead to hyperthyroidism, which is dangerous for pregnant women.

Hyperthyroidism during pregnancy may cause:

  • Altered fetal neurodevelopment
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Premature birth
  • Intrauterine growth retardation
  • Decreased motor skills

PBDEs are very similar to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are said to cause reproductive problems, cancer, and impaired fetal development.

Beware: PBDEs are Also Found in 80 Percent of Baby Products

Dr. Mercola warns that many baby products, like crib mattresses, contain flame-retardant chemicals. This is dangerous because children spend longer hours sleeping, with their faces very close to the mattress surface. Jumping and bouncing on the mattress can also release more toxins in the air.

Other products that contain toxic flame-retardant chemicals include:

  • Nursing pillows
  • High chairs
  • Baby car seats
  • Baby carriers
  • Changing table pads
  • Bassinets and portable cribs
  • Glider rockers
  • Baby tub inserts and bath slings
  • Strollers and walkers
  • Sleeping wedges

Other household items may also contain PBDEs:

  • Textiles
  • Carpets
  • Polyurethane foam furnishings
  • Electronics and plastics
  • Motor vehicles

How to Avoid PBDEs and PCBs

Unfortunately, manufacturers are not required to mention PBDEs in product labels. So when purchasing fire-retardant products like mattresses, furniture, carpet padding, televisions, cell phones, and computers, you should ask first what type of fire-retardant chemical they contain.

Dr. Mercola warns that aside from PBDEs and PCNs, there are other fire-retardant chemicals that can be detrimental to your health, like formaldehyde, antimony, boric acid, and brominated chemicals.

Old carpet padding and polyurethane foam products manufactured before 2005 may also contain PBDEs. Throw these out, and be careful when removing them from your home. Deca, another old source of PBDEs, are also found in electronics such as TVs, cell phones, kitchen appliances, fans, and toner cartridges.

Instead of PBDE-containing materials, choose those which contain less-flammable material like wool, leather, and cotton. Use products that are made from organic and “green” materials that are free from toxic chemicals.

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