Toxic flame retardants may make products “safer” for consumers, but they have been found in breast milk and are detrimental to our health. Some researchers have even gone so far as to claim flame retardants in breast milk cause autism. Well, at least you don’t have to worry about being burned while nursing. Seriously, though, there is somewhat good news on the flame retardant front: decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) will be phased out by 2014.
According to a three-year-old report by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency:
DecaBDE is bioaccumulating in the environment and that levels are increasing in some samples. We also found that humans are exposed to DecaBDE, mainly from the diet, workplace, and home…we were able to report that liver, thyroid, reproductive/developmental, and neurological effects are the most important effects seen in animal studies with DecaBDE and other polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)…
Two US producers and the largest importer of decaBDE have agreed to phase out the chemical by 2014. Found in everything from electronics to cars, decaBDE will slowly be eliminated from consumer products in the US. The Environment New Service explains:
As a result of negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the companies have committed to end production, importation, and sales of decaBDE for most uses in the United States by December 31, 2012, and to end all uses by the end of 2013…EPA intends to encourage the other minor importers of decaBDE to join this initiative.
The military will be the slowest to remove decaBDE from its applications.
We’ve known flame retardants are bad for children for awhile. The Environmental Protection Agency states,
- Hormone disrupting chemicals like decaBDE are most dangerous to infants and developing children. Studies suggest young children receive up to 300 times greater exposure to PBDEs than adults, primarily from breast milk and inadvertent dust ingestion.
- A 2007 study sponsored by Environment Illinois and advocates in six other states tested 35 Americans—including five Illinoisans—for decaBDE. The study found detectable levels of decaBDE in all but one participant.
Why it is taking so long to phase them out and why smaller importers will not be required to comply is beyond me. Why phase out decaBDE? Why not make a ban effective immediately?
Will breast milk be safe to drink again after 2014? Probably not, as these chemicals will remain in our environment for quite some time. Despite the presence of manmade chemicals in breast milk, it is still clearly the best food for little ones.