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My daughter is going to college this fall and we are getting ready. Her school recommended a number of items for her dorm which we dutifully purchased. Having worked on getting toxic flame retardants out of the foam in our couches over the past several years, it occurred to me that I should have the school-recommended foam mattress toppers for my daughter tested for those same toxic chemicals. So I bought both recommended toppers and sent samples to Professor Graham Peaslee at Hope College in Michigan.

Testing revealed that both the egg crate and memory foam toppers contained toxic flame retardants:

"The egg-crate mattress topper was approximately 1.2 percent bromine. Brominated flame retardants are usually persistent, bioaccummulative and toxic. The flame retardant mixture called Firemaster 550 is the most common source of such levels of bromine in new foam, and although lacking extensive study, Firemaster 550 has been associated with obesity and anxiety in animals. In addition, one major component of Firemaster 550 has been linked to decreased sperm count in men, neurotoxicity and disruption of heart development and endocrine and metabolic function."

It wasn't just the recommended egg-crate mattress topper that was found to contain toxic flame retardants, the memory foam pad did too:

"The memory foam pad tested positive for bromine, but quantitative levels were not reported. Firemaster 550 is again a prime suspect, but further testing is needed."

"Flame retardants have been linked to cancer, reproductive disorders and brain damage in children, among other ills, " reports Lynne Peeples.

It shouldn't take a chemist and out-of-state testing to determine whether or not toxic flame retardants are in our sleeping areas. It's time to eliminate toxic flame retardants from our stores, schools, hospitals and homes so we don't have to send products out to be tested in the first place.

Fortunately, some are seeing the light and change is happening. For example, Kaiser, the largest US health management nonprofit announcing that they will stop buying furniture treated with flame retardants. They are leading the way in working to eliminate unnecessary and harmful chemicals in our surroundings, and putting pressure on manufacturers. You can read more about it in this Huffington Post article.

Mattress toppers are incredibly common in dorms around the country, and it appears that most contain flame retardants that seep out and become part of our children's toxic body burden. This is far from healthy for our kids. I don't want my child burdened in this way and the wonderful thing is, she doesn't need to be. It is easy to not put flame retardants in mattress toppers. We as consumers can use our purchasing power to demand this change. In the 70s they put flame retardants in children's sleepwear. When research revealed that children were absorbing these harmful chemicals, they took the flame retardants out! We can do this again.

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