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Renee Blanchard's picture

It's virtually impossible to stay on top of current events and not see how toxic chemicals are impacting the health of our environment and our bodies. For me, it’s all overwhelming and difficult to digest at times. And I can’t stop thinking about how the toxic chemicals that are hidden in the products I use everyday are impacting my life’s goals. I’ve wanted a large family for as long as I have wanted to defend environmental and social justice and this month I read about three studies that are particularly unsettling for me as a future mother.

(1) Scientists Link Flame Retardants and Reduced Fertility

(2) Prenatal Exposure to Flame Retardant Compounds Affects Neurodevelopment of Young Children

(3) Young Mothers Breast Milk Has Highest Levels of Flame Retardants

So . . . not only are flame retardants impacting my ability to get pregnant, but they are affecting the neurodevelopment of my child if I do and then I’m feeding him or her chemicals when I breast feed. (I’ll spare you the additional details of how flame retardants are found downstream from factories during both the manufacture and end of life breakdown processes and the true costs to the workers for now.)

But first . . . is this a cruel joke? Environmentalists and scientists have been discussing the negative health impacts of flame retardants, specifically brominated flame retardants (BFRs), for years. There has been some movement to eliminate BFRs from popular consumer products by a handful of companies, but they are still ubiquitous in our homes. It makes me want to ask, are corporations that continue to create flame retardants and use them in their products so out of touch with humanity that they don’t care about their own impacts on a fundamental stage of being human, having and caring for babies?

Even with all the scientific evidence and the leadership from some companies, such as Apple, who have eliminated toxic chemicals like BFRs from their product lines, the chemical industry is putting real money into trying to defeat state legislation. I couldn’t think of a worse job than getting in front of a public hearing and coming up with reasons why toxic chemicals that harm the development of children shouldn’t be taken out of consumer products. Good luck explaining that one to your own children one day, darlings.

The good news is that there have been some positive results from all this news. EPA along with three of the largest deca-BDE (a type of flame retardant) manufacturers announced the voluntary phase out of this toxic chemical. On January 27, the Michigan House of Representatives unanimously passed a ban on this same chemical. And like I mentioned above, some companies are showing leadership. Apple announced in 2009 that all new product lines will be polyvinyl chloride (PVC also known as vinyl) and BFR free and then HP released a new desktop at the Consumer Electronics Show in early January that is also PVC and BFR free.

I know that when I read about things like this, I need to also read about a solution in which I can take action. Otherwise it’s just overwhelming and I just want to pretend I didn’t hear about it in the first place.

So . . . I think the best place to take action is in your purchasing power or more accurately your power to not purchase from companies that refuse to design out toxic chemicals.

Ask the person you are about to buy a new cell phone, for example, from if it contains brominated flame retardants and please do not take ‘I’m not sure’ for an answer. If that’s what you get, make sure they find out. And make sure your voice is heard. Refuse to purchase a product that does have BFRs and tell them why.

Companies will begin to eliminate toxic chemicals when we demand it . . . loudly and consistently.

For a toxic free future,

Renee Claire

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