The Most Common Flame Retardants, Part 2: Chlorinated

In Part 2 of our series investigating flame retardant chemicals, we’re looking at another of the most common flame retardants used in the United States, Chlorinated Flame Retardants (CFR’s).

I realize that we may not be able to avoid this group of chemicals, but it’s important to learn where they’re found so that we can confidently can make safer choices for our families.

Chlorinated Flame Retardants (CFR)

Restrictions on the use of brominated flame retardants (PBDEs) has resulted in the increased use of alternate flame retardant chemicals to meet flammability standards.  Some of the most commonly substituted alternatives are CFR’s, often called the “Chlorinated Tris.”  The flame retardants TDCP (Tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate) and TCEP (Tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate) are routinely bonded into the materials of baby products, furniture and many other household items.

CFR’s Hiding Places

Just think foam – foam cushions, foam filled pillows, foam-padded strollers and cars – and you’re looking CFR’s right in the face.  Many plastics used in electronics are also woven together with this group of chemicals (yet another great reason to avoid PVC!).

  • TDCP is the main flame retardant used in automotive foam and foam-padded furniture such as couches, chairs, and sofa beds
  • TDCP is also used in baby gear including strollers, nursing pillows and rocking chair foam (although it was banned for use in kid’s sleepwear in 1977)
  • TCEP is used in furniture foam, PVC plastic (vinyl), home electronics (including televisions and computers), adhesives, upholstery, carpet backings, rubber, paints and varnishes

Specific Health Concerns Caused by Over-exposure

As with brominated flame retardant chemicals, overexposure leads to bio-accumulation which may cause long-term health damage.  Studies have linked TDCP and TCEP to cancer and have been found to harm the liver, kidney, brain and testes.  CFR’s were banned in kid’s pajamas when the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) determined to them be a probable human carcinogen.  TCEP, a similarly structured chemical, also causes cancer, neurological and reproductive harm in laboratory animals.

Because so many household products contain CFR’s, the unbound chemicals slough off and accumulate in household dust causing higher exposure and increased indoor air pollution.  The sad fact is that between 10 and 50 million pounds of TDCP were imported or produced in the United States in 2006 and demand is anticipated to increase.

CFR’s have been routinely found in:

  • Breast milk
  • Body fat
  • Fish and sea life- tissue of whales, seals, mussels and dozens of freshwater and marine fish
  • Wildlife, water and sediments of rivers- birds/eggs, moose
  • Sewage Sludge

It’s Time We Demand Change

In November 2010, 145 scientists in 22 countries issued the first-ever consensus statement documenting health hazards from flame retardant chemicals which was published in the open academic journal Environmental Health Perspectives.  The scientists stated that many different types of brominated and chlorinated flame retardants have been incorporated into products even though comprehensive toxicological information is lacking.  They recommended that improvements be made to the availability of and access to infor­mation on flame retardants in the product supply chain and throughout each product’s life cycle because consumers can play a role in the adoption of alternatives to harmful flame retardants if they are made aware of the presence of the substances, for example, through product labeling.

I agree, so let’s get educated and start advocating for change!

>> READ the Flame Retardant Series Introduction HERE and Part 1, Brominated Fire Retardants HERE.

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  • hrm

    Parts 5 and 6 can’t come fast enough. Thank you!

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