Flame Retardants and Health

Flame retardant chemicals aren’t essential to fire safety, yet they have been widely applied to many products we regularly use in our homes and offices. The chemicals migrate out of these products into the air and dust in indoor environments where we are exposed to them continuously. They persist in the environment, and our bodies, for long periods of time. They have been associated with adverse effects on neurodevelopment and interference with our hormone and reproductive systems.

This series briefly explores the history of flame retardant chemicals use, how they can affect our health, and how a recent change in standards may allow for us, for the first time, to make purchasing decisions that reduce our exposures to potentially toxic chemicals.  

Flame retardants: Why do we have them and how are they harmful?

A brief history of flame retardants in the U.S.

Is there a benefit to having flame retardants in our products?

Why flame retardant chemicals are non-essential to our safety. 

Can we choose products without flame retardants?

Updated standards allow us to make informed decisions about the products we purchase.

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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