Please, only buy or use sofas and upholstered chairs that do NOT contain any flame retardant chemicals. Be sure to look at the tags attached to the furniture that are required by a California law since 2015 (called Technical Bulletin 117-2013) to be on each new sofa and upholstered furniture. It will tell you if it contains flame retardant chemicals or not.
This is especially important if at some point you are thinking of having a child, if you are pregnant, or if you have children. The problem is that the flame retardant chemicals, which were added for decades to the foam in upholstered furniture, migrate out and so get into us (through the skin, inhaling, or by swallowing). Unfortunately, almost all of us have flame retardants in our bodies. Where they can cause health problems.
Two new studies were published recently showing harms from exposures to flame retardants. The first found an association between flame retardant chemicals before birth (when the pregnant woman is exposed, it gets to the developing baby) and later reading problems.
The second study found that exposures to pesticides and flame retardants have overtaken lead and mercury as leading contributors to IQ loss in children.
The researchers looked at exposure to major groups of endocrine disrupting chemicals during pregnancy and effects on the children. Yes - once again, chemicals frequently found all around us are hormone disruptors, and these chemicals also negatively affect neurological development. One result with higher exposure is that it lowers IQ. The 4 groups are: flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs), certain pesticides (organophosphates), mercury (methymercury), and lead. Exposures to the first three have the biggest effect during pregnancy (they cross the placenta and so get to the baby).
The researchers found an interesting result: organophosphate pesticide (such as chlorpyrifos) exposure and IQ loss attributed to it has increased since 2003. And that since the EPA did not ban chlorpyrifos (widely used on crops), then organophosphate pesticide "levels will continue to climb in the United States population due to ingestion of chlorpyrifos-treated crops". NOTE: these pesticides are allowed on conventional crops, but NOT organic crops.
How to avoid exposure? Hard to totally avoid exposure to these chemicals, but you can lower your exposure. Eat as many organic foods as possible. Try to avoid buying or having flame retardant sofas, upholstered chairs, and other upholstered furniture in your home. [Note: if they say that they use "safer" replacement chemicals - still avoid that furniture. The replacements are similar chemicals and may be just as bad or worse.] Frequently open windows to "air out" the home.
Excerpts from Science Daily: Prenatal exposure to flame retardants linked to reading problems
A new study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons suggests that prenatal exposure to flame retardants may increase the risk of reading problems.
In the current study, the researchers hypothesized that in utero exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) -- a type of flame retardant that is known to have adverse effects on brain development -- might alter the brain processes involved in reading. (While use of PBDEs has been banned, exposure to the compounds is still widespread because they do not degrade easily in the environment.)
The researchers found that children with a better-functioning reading network had fewer reading problems. The also showed that children with greater exposure to PDBEs had a less efficient reading network. However, greater exposure did not appear to affect the function of another brain network involved in social processing that has been associated with psychiatric disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.
"Since social processing problems are not a common aspect of reading disorders, our findings suggest that exposure to PDBEs doesn't affect the whole brain -- just the regions associated with reading," says Amy Margolis, PhD, assistant professor of medical psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Excerpts from Science Daily - Flame retardants and pesticides overtake heavy metals as biggest contributors to IQ loss
Adverse outcomes from childhood exposures to lead and mercury are on the decline in the United States, likely due to decades of restrictions on the use of heavy metals, a new study finds.
Despite decreasing levels, exposure to these and other toxic chemicals, especially flame retardants and pesticides, still resulted in more than a million cases of intellectual disability in the United States between 2001 and 2016. Furthermore, as the target of significantly fewer restrictions, experts say, flame retardants and pesticides now represent the bulk of that cognitive loss.
NYU Grossman School of Medicine researchers found that IQ loss from the toxic chemicals analyzed in their study dropped from 27 million IQ points in 2001 and 2002 to 9 million IQ points in 2015 and 2016.
While this overall decline is promising, the researchers say, their findings also identify a concerning shift in which chemicals represent the greatest risk. Among toxin-exposed children, the researchers found that the proportion of cognitive loss that results from exposure to chemicals used in flame retardants, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBEs), and organophosphate pesticides increased from 67 percent to 81 percent during the same study period.
The substances analyzed are found in household products from furniture upholstery to tuna fish, and can build up in the body to damage organs, researchers say. Heavy metals, lead and mercury in particular, are known to disrupt brain and kidney function. In addition, they, along with flame retardants and pesticides, can interfere with the thyroid, which secretes brain-developing hormones. Experts say exposure at a young age to any of these toxins can cause learning disabilities, autism, and behavioral issues.
In their investigation, the researchers found that everyday contact with these substances during the 16-year study period resulted in roughly 1,190,230 children affected with some form of intellectual disability. Overall childhood exposures cost the nation $7.5 trillion in lost economic productivity and other societal costs.