Photo: How to avoid toxic flame retardants in the home

Dust with a wet cloth weekly. (Credit: denn via Flickr)

If you don't plan to get rid of your TV and furniture, the simple answer is to dust.

Studies have shown that consumer products, not industrial releases, are the likely source of flame retardants or, PBDEs (building up in people and animals).

These toxic chemicals — found in furniture, carpets and electronics — have been linked to cancer, adverse effects on the developing brain, and immune and reproductive problems. They are also persistent and bioaccumulative, which means they build up in the environment and our bodies (and in the bodies of animals like polar bears and killer whales).

That's right, your TV, curtains and couch shed PBDEs. Then these chemicals contaminate household dust, posing a substantial health risk to people. In fact, household dust is now recognized as one of the most significant sources of childhood exposure to toxic substances. Studies show that dust is really a chemical soup with low levels of flame retardants, phthalates, metals like lead, mercury and arsenic, and pesticides.

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Sure, some of these chemicals are tracked in from outside, but most originate from the wear-and-tear of consumer products. You'll also find higher levels in dryer lint and in the vacuum cleaner bag. Note: don't compost dryer lint if you spread it on garden veggie beds.

As well as dusting more often — I suggest using a 50:50 mix of vinegar and olive oil — leave your shoes at the door. Shoes track contaminated dirt into your home, with everything from pesticides to lead. The Door Mat Study suggests wiping shoes on a mat and taking them off at the door. And leave your runners, soccer cleats and bike shoes at the door instead of storing them in a bedroom closet. It's a simple step that can reduce lead dust in your home by 60 per cent.

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