Eco-Chic - Flame Retardant


It's a new year and Eco Chic, Jo Alcorn of Whitewash & Co is back to keep us in the know, and break down all those eco and green terms we come across.  This month, she is uncovering what's behind fire retardant products, and if we are safe from the product that keeps us safe from fire.

Flame retardant, what does that even mean!

Flame retardant, that sounds scary, something more powerful then fire, really!! That is like the super hero of all chemicals if that is true. Which raises the question what is this chemical that can stand up against fire and keep the product protected and in tact while fire attacks it? 

I had to open with a pretty picture!

Flame retardant is important in some cases for sure, like fire fighting uniforms, certain building materials, electrical wire cloths or people who lite fire to their clothing as stunts. But is it really necessary in our homes. All I can think about is what kind of VOC’s are produced by this chemical. The most common place this chemical is found within our homes is our mattresses, right at the surface where we lay our heads for hours at a time. Originally this chemical was added due to people smoking and falling a sleep, however is it necessary to contaminated us all now in our most precious time of relaxation?

Image Source 
So what is this chemical, “Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are organobromide compounds that have an inhibitory effect on the ignition of combustible organic materials. Of the commercialized chemical flame retardants, the brominated variety are most widely used.” Oh good old Wikipedia.  Many brominated chemicals are coming under increasing criticism in their use in household furnishings and where children would come into contact with them. Some believe the chemicals, including PBDE could have harmful effects on humans and animals. Increasing concern has prompted some European countries to ban some of them, following the precautionary principle more common in Europe.[4] They are lipophilic and bioaccumulative. BFRs have been found in people all over the world” What!! Banned from Europe!! Now I am a proud Canadian, however Europe seems to always be a head of the game when it comes to security and safety of products. So this raises an eye brow even more, how dangerous is this chemical that is used on our mattresses and almost all fabric’s in hospitality spaces?

Research on laboratory animals have linked “PBDE exposure to an array of adverse health effects including thyroid hormone disruption, permanent learning and memory impairment, behavioural changes, hearing deficits, delayed puberty onset, decreased sperm count, fetal malformations and, possibly, cancer. Research in animals shows that exposure to brominated fire retardants in-utero or during infancy leads to more significant harm than exposure during adulthood, and at much lower levels. Many questions remain, but new evidence raises concerns that low levels of PBDE exposure pose a significant health risk to developing animals, and may pose a health risk to fetuses, infants and children at levels currently detected in American women.”  

I find sometimes I wish I didn’t do this research. The PBDE chemical that is used in all of our homes, hotels, restaurants and sometime our clothing is a very dangerous substance, and we have lived with this enemy for years!!! I stopped looking further into because I kept finding highly disturbing information, on how the government and society has known and allowed this chemical to enter our living spaces. Now this is the conspiracy theorist in me, but could this chemical be linked to the drug companies and them cashing in the horrible health effects that we seek medical advice on? Raises a question on why we have allowed such a chemical as the “Fire retardant”, which is a Marketing word, to even be allowed to enter our precious homes and expose our loved ones to ticking time bombs! So, the next time you lay your head down on that comfortable and warm bed of yours, stop and think, what are you exposing yourself to??

Look for organic and green solutions. Stay green and keep raising questions!!

Until next time,


Sources: Wikipedia,

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