Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers, or “PBDEs,” are flame-retardant chemicals that are used in a vast array of household items. PBDEs can be found in everything from carpet pads and foam pillows to computers and television sets. The 3 most commonly used PBDEs – penta, octa, and deca – can be found respectively in polyurethane foams, high impact plastics and electronic equipment. Research has linked exposure to PBDEs to an array of health problems including thyroid disruption, permanent learning and memory impairment, behavioral changes and liver damage.
In 2005 the Environmental Protection Agency disallowed the production of both the penta and octa forms of PBDEs in the United States after the Environmental Working Group and others reported widespread PBDE contamination in people, households, wildlife and common foods. While foam pillows and furniture purchased after 2005 are not likely to contain PBDEs, items purchased prior to 2005 probably do contain these toxins.
Limit your exposure to PBDEs by following these simple steps:
Toss Your Toxic Pillow
The levels of PBDEs in polyurethane foam pillows are among the highest in your house and the direct exposure can lead to liver damage and affect thyroid function. By replacing your foam pillow with one made of polyester fiber or feathers, you can reduce your risk of PBDEs-related health problems.
Keep It Covered
Ideally, when a piece of furniture’s foam is exposed, misshapen or falling apart, the furniture should be replaced. However, this can be expensive. When it’s not possible to replace an item, keep its cover intact (or replace it) to prevent exposure.
Prevent Long-Term Buildup
As the items that contain the chemicals slowly breakdown, PBDEs are released and collect as dust, the primary source of exposure in your home. You can combat buildup by vacuuming and sweeping frequently. Be diligent about keeping your house dust free, particularly if you have small children and pets.