Flame retardants in preschools create risk for kids
You’d expect that keeping preschoolers in care centers safe from fire would be a high priority, but not at the expense of their health. Unfortunately, that’s what could be happening in many preschool and daycare centers. New research reveals that flame retardants prevalent in these spaces could potentially be exposing these kiddos to hazardous chemicals.
Published in the journal Chemosphere in mid-May, the study found that air and floor dust samples collected from 40 child care centers in California tested positive for harmful compounds.
In all of the dust samples collected, researchers found both polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs and tris-(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl)phosphate compounds. Both are types of flame retardant compounds. PBDEs can generally be found in consumer products such as carpet padding or foam padding in furniture. Tris-phosphates were used in children’s sleepwear years ago until they were removed from them in the 1970s.
Earlier in the year, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control reported that children’s foam sleeping pads containing flame retardants was one of three products considered harmful to consumers. Other items including nap mats, bassinets and infant travel beds were also cited by agency officials as items that often contain chlorinated tris-phosphate.
Although flame retardants were found to be commonplace in dust, researchers found the levels of chemicals to be generally low in air samples.
“These findings underscore how widespread these materials are in indoor environments,” said lead study author Asa Bradman in a statement. “A growing body of research has found links between flame retardants and a range of human health effects, including neurodevelopmental delays in children. Children are more vulnerable to the health effects of environmental contaminants, so we should be particularly careful to reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals,” said Bradman, associate director of the Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research at UC Berkeley in California.
For those concerned about exposure to flame retardants, Bradman suggests the following:
- Vacuum daily with a HEPA filter and use a wet mop to minimize dust.
- Wash hands frequently.
- Buy wooden furniture or cushions filled with cotton, down, polyester or wool.
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