Parents continue to be alarmed at findings about toxic flame retardants in our homes – not only in our furniture but in many products for our kids. Writing for the Baltimore Post-Examiner, Sara Michael calls herself “a first-time mom with Type A tendencies,” and those tendencies serve her well in her excellent review of the flame retardants controversy. These chemicals are still in wide use primarily due to a California flame retardant standard that encourages companies to use flame retardants even though federal government studies have found they provide little or no fire safety benefit.
As the Baltimore-based first-time mom found, this California rule has national implications: she found tags noting the use of flame retardants in her son’s pajamas and his foam changing pad. As she notes, these flame retardants are wholly unnecessary, and worse, they threaten our children’s health. Numerous recent studies have linked flame retardant chemicals to lower IQs, reduced fertility, hormonal changes, and hindering neurological development in infants and children, among other health threats.
What’s more, studies show that these chemicals are in our blood, in our kids, in our pets and in the environment. Studies have also found flame retardants in breast milk, leading to a recent comment by TV and film star Fran Drescher warning moms about the dangers of breast milk. The star of the forthcoming Hotel Transylvania is making a great contribution drawing attention to the environmental factors related to disease with her nonprofit Cancer Schmancer. And who wouldn’t be concerned when we hear that breastmilk can dose our newborns with toxic flame retardants and other harmful chemicals?
But new parents need to know that despite the toxic risks, medical experts continue to urge breastfeeding over formula, for dozens of reasons. For example, this recent review study weighed evidence of the risks of contaminants with the benefits of breastfeeding, and concluded overwhelmingly that breastmilk remains the best option. “Because of human milk’s nutritional, immunologic, anticancer, and detoxifying effects [these] environmental scientists encourage women to continue the practice of breastfeeding even in the context of widespread pollution,” the study concluded, based on discussions with leading experts.
We also agree with the comments by Vassar College scientist and Breast Cancer Fund Board Member Janet Gray, who told an EPA science panel that despite chemical risks, breast milk “…is absolutely the most biologically natural and healthiest source of nutrition for a young infant. [But] we believe that no infant should have to be exposed to [a toxic chemical] during the process of breastfeeding….” Or as “type-A” mom Sara Michael in Baltimore concluded, “We should all be outraged that we as a society are allowing these chemicals into our products and homes and eventually, our children’s bodies.”
If you’re outraged, get active with MOMS! Our website shows has tools you can use to discuss these issues, take action, and learn about upcoming events in support of healthier environments for our children and families.