Can we choose products without flame retardants?


Flame retardants are chemicals that are added to products to slow down or prevent the spread of fire. They are commonly found in items such as furniture, electronics, and textiles. While they may provide a level of fire safety, some studies suggest that they can be harmful to human health and the environment. In this article, we will explore the potential dangers of flame retardants and how to choose products without them.

The Risks of Flame Retardants

The most widely used flame retardants are brominated and chlorinated compounds. These chemicals have been linked to a range of health issues, including cancer, developmental delays, and hormone disruption. Studies have also found that flame retardants can accumulate in the environment and have negative impacts on wildlife.

One of the biggest concerns with flame retardants is their ability to leach out of products and into the air and dust in our homes. This means that even if we are not in direct contact with flame retardant-containing products, we can still be exposed to these chemicals.

How to Identify Flame Retardant-Free Products

If you are concerned about the potential risks of flame retardants, there are ways to identify products that do not contain them. Look for products that are labeled as "flame retardant-free" or "without added flame retardants." These labels indicate that the manufacturer has made a conscious effort to avoid the use of these chemicals.

You can also look for products that are made from natural materials, such as wool, cotton, and silk. These materials are naturally flame-resistant and do not require the use of added flame retardants.

Another option is to purchase products that have been certified by third-party organizations, such as GREENGUARD or OEKO-TEX. These organizations test products for the presence of harmful chemicals, including flame retardants, and certify them as safe for use.

How to Reduce Your Exposure to Flame Retardants

In addition to choosing flame retardant-free products, there are other steps you can take to reduce your exposure to these chemicals. Here are a few tips:

  • Vacuum and dust regularly to remove any dust that may contain flame retardants.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating or touching your face.
  • Use a HEPA filter in your vacuum cleaner to trap fine dust particles.
  • Avoid reupholstering furniture that contains flame retardants.
  • Choose natural materials for bedding and upholstery, such as wool or cotton.
  • Avoid buying products with foam that contains flame retardants.


While flame retardants may provide a level of fire safety, they also pose potential risks to human health and the environment. By choosing flame retardant-free products and taking steps to reduce your exposure to these chemicals, you can help protect yourself and your family. Remember to look for products that are labeled as flame retardant-free or made from natural materials, and consider using third-party certifications as a guide for your purchases. By making these simple changes, you can enjoy the benefits of a safer, healthier home.

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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