Government-Mandated Chemicals Are Dumbing Us Down

New research from New York University shows that pesticides and flame retardants may pose a growing threat to a child’s IQ — perhaps more than lead or mercury.

Jan 14, 2020

Business Insider – Exposure to flame retardants resulted in a loss of 162 million IQ points among children from 2001 to 2016.

A public-health researcher called these toxins “hit-and-run” chemicals because the damage can be sudden and cannot be reserved.

The chemicals we’ve long feared the most — heavy metals like lead and mercury — are less of a threat to kids’ developing brains than they were two decades ago. But two new menaces may be taking their place: pesticides and flame retardants.

According to new research from New York University, flame retardants resulted in a loss of 162 million IQ points among children in the US between 2001 and 2016.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, looked at the four chemicals known to impact the brain of a developing child most: lead, mercury, pesticides, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (otherwise known as flame retardants).

Leo Trasande, a pediatrician and public-health researcher at NYU who co-authored the study, described these pollutants as “hit-and-run” chemicals: Once a child is exposed to them, there’s no reversing the damage.

“Kids’ brain development is exquisitely vulnerable,” Trasande told Business Insider. “If you disrupt, even with subtle effects, the way a child’s brain is wired, you can have permanent and lifelong consequences.”

The study found that lead cost US kids 78 million IQ points during the 15-year period studied, while pesticides caused a loss of nearly 27 million IQ points during those years. Mercury, meanwhile, caused a loss of 2.5 million IQ points.

The researchers found that among kids exposed to toxins from 2001 to to 2016, the proportion of IQ loss due to exposure to flame retardants and pesticides increased from 67% to 81%.

Flame retardants can be found in household furniture and electronics, while pesticides can be consumed when they linger on produce. Read more. 

Nancy Uding | February 11, 2016

Toxic Free Future – Over the last year, as more and more shoppers demand products without toxic flame retardants, several furniture manufacturers and retailers have announced they are no longer using toxic flame retardants in their products. While this is a good thing, we wanted to find out how the rest of the market was doing. We dispatched our secret shoppers to neighborhood retailers to investigate.

What Our Secret Shoppers Found

  • 25% (46 products) had label indicating it meets TB117 standards, which means product likely contains flame retardants 
  • 19% (35 products) labeled as “CONTAINS ADDED FLAME RETARDANTS”
  • 56% (102 products)labeled as “CONTAINS NO ADDED FLAME RETARDANTS”

Why Should You Be Concerned?

Our secret shoppers found that 44% of the furniture surveyed contained, or was likely to contain, toxic flame retardants. Commonly used chemical flame retardants are linked to cancer, harm to brain development, hormone disruption, thyroid effects, and obesity. Research shows they escape from consumer products, polluting the air and house dust which people then breathe or ingest.

Toxic flame retardants aren’t necessary to make products fire safe. There are safer alternatives, which some retailers and manufacturers have started using.

How Our Shoppers Used Labels To Detect Toxic Flame Retardants 

Thanks to recent updates in California’s flammability requirements, home furniture items containing flame retardant chemicals must now be labeled as “CONTAIN ADDED FLAME RETARDANT CHEMICALS”.  The label pictured below was found on a kids’ chair at the Fred Meyer store in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard.

Toxic flame 3Our secret shoppers took pictures of home furniture and the labels. They submitted what they found through our unique online cell phone survey tool.

So What Should Shoppers Do?

It’s clear there is still a lot of furniture in stores that contains toxic flame retardants despite major manufacturers and retailers pledging to stop using the chemicals.

Before you go furniture shopping, make sure to first contact your legislators and tell them to give consumers a piece of mind and ban toxic flame retardants in furniture. Legislators in Washington state have the opportunity right now to ban certain toxic flame retardants in home furniture and children’s products.

[UPDATE: The Washington State Legislature recently passed a ban on some types of toxic flame retardants in home furniture. The state will also be assessing whether other toxic flame retardant chemicals should be banned as well.]

But, until manufacturers are prohibited from using harmful toxic flame retardants, shoppers need to be aware and read the labels. Here are some tips:

  • If the label says “CONTAINS NO ADDED FLAME RETARDANTS” that means it’s free of flame retardants.
  • If label is marked with “CONTAINS ADDED FLAME RETARDANTS” that means it contains flame retardants.
  • If the label says the product meets TB117 standards and has no additional information, it meets an outdated standard and is likely to contain flame retardants. Source. 

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