Study: The Freaky Thing That’s Harming Your Kids’ Health

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Flame retardant compounds and chemicals, used to make household items less likely to catch fire, could be in your child's lungs, according to a new study published in the journal Chemosphere. In a weird twist, it's the same hidden poison that's killing off the frog population as well.

These compounds can be found in products throughout your home, including foam-filled furniture, electronics, and even soda.

Researchers from the University of California Berkeley found that child care centers are a real hotspot for hazardous flame retardants. As part of their study, they collected air and floor dust samples — while the kids were present — at child care centers in rural, urban, and agricultural areas, and found these dangerous compounds in all 40 places that they visited.

Asa Bradman, PhD, associate director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health Research at UC Berkeley, and lead author of the study, says the findings underscore just how widespread these dangerous materials are in indoor environments. 

"A growing body of research has found links between flame retardants and a range of human health effects, including neurodevelopmental delays in children," he adds.

Other studies suggest that flame retardants may increase cases of infertility, cause birth defects, and increase an individual's odds of developing liver, kidney, testicular, and breast cancers.

So what's the connection between kids and frogs? Frogs and other amphibians are vulnerable to their environment because their skin is thin, porous, and absorbs water. A new separate experiment done last week found that frogs exposed to flame retardants have weakened immune systems, which can make them susceptible to dying more quickly than frogs not exposed to these chemicals.

The Environmental Working Groups offers some tips for protecting your family from dangerous flame retardant compounds. Since most foam-filled furniture and many baby products contain chemical flame retardants, replace anything with a ripped cover or with foam that is misshapen and breaking down. If you can't replace the stuff, keep the covers intact. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter; it's the best way to remove any flame retardants lurking in household dust. Electronics can be another source of exposure, so wipe down these items regularly with a damp cloth.