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Dangerous Flame Retardants Found in Childcare Centers

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If you’re a parent who takes their child to a daycare, you might want to ask them about flame retardants that experts say can pose huge health hazards.

Back in 2006 the state of California banned two types of fire retardants made from polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) after it was discovered that these compounds could have a dramatically negative impact on the neurodevelopment of children.

The problem is that furniture containing these dangerous chemicals can still be found in many buildings. Recently, researchers working on a report for the journal Chemosphere looked for PBDEs in child care centers in California. After visiting forty of these facilities (serving more than 1,700 children), the researchers reported that twenty-nine used upholstered furniture containing the dangerous PBDEs.

The report’s lead author, Asa Bradman — who is also associate director of the Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research at UC Berkeley — says it’s a startling finding that must prompt action.

“These findings underscore how widespread these materials are in indoor environments,” Bradman said. “Children are more vulnerable to the health effects of environmental contaminants, so we should be particularly careful to reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals.”

It’s been known since the 1970s that PBDEs are dangerous and should be avoided. However, it’s still easy to find these chemicals, which is why the state of California is introducing new standards which encourage manufacturers to avoid using PBDEs.

However, Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute at UC Berkeley, says consumers can also take action. “Consumers should verify that the furniture they are buying is free of flame retardants, especially when children will be exposed,” Blum said.

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