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Some flame retardant chemicals raise health, environmental concerns

In a previous post, we looked at a lawsuit filed by a water company against over 30 carpet manufacturers in Alabama and Georgia for the companies’ alleged knowing release of chemicals into the Coosa and Consauga rivers, leading to economic loss for the water company due to environmental and public health issues.

The specific chemicals targeted in that particular lawsuit are reportedly used to make carpet stain-resistant, but other chemicals used to make carpet, textiles and other products flame-retardant can also cause environmental and health problems. There are a great many chemicals used as fire retardants for various products on the market, but at present it is really only a handful of them, according to experts, which raise serious concerns about environmental and health concerns. 

What makes this select group of flame-retardant chemicals effective—the fact that they are hard to break down—is also what can lead to health problems from long-term exposure. Although more research needs to be done, there is concern that exposure to these chemicals could lead to cancer, neurodevelopmental disorders, and autism. These chemicals can be found in a number of consumer products, including various baby products, which obviously put those who are most vulnerable at risk of exposure.

So what exactly is preventing manufacturers from using these dangerous chemicals? Unfortunately, at present, not a whole lot in most states, though updates to the Toxic Substances Control Act could end up limiting the use of dangerous flame retardants, in time. We’ll look a bit more at this issue in our next post.

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