Thursday, November 29, 2012

Is your couch a killer?

It's only natural to want to make your house a safe space for you and your guests.

You've probably already cleared out all the harmful household products and made sure sharp edges are smoothed and hard surfaces are softened.

But you've probably never given your couch or carpet a second glance. After all, they're perfectly safe, right?

Unfortunately, these seemingly safe parts of your home may be anything but. The culprit is a class of chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Funny thing is they were supposed to make your home safer: manufacturer's started applying them as flame retardants in the 1970s.

Sadly the scientific community has known for a long time that PBDEs may disrupt the endocrine system. This latest study is simply the largest one to look specifically at the development of the brain and nervous system.

Once researchers started uncovering the dangers of PBDEs, many states did the right thing and banned the chemicals. But if your couch or carpet was made before 2004, it may contain PBDEs.

The truth is, a full 97 percent of us have the chemicals in our blood thanks to decades of exposure. And they're still clearly affecting kids.

If you bought your couch in the 80s or 90s, or if your carpet hasn't been updated in a while, your home could be exposing the children in your life to PBDEs. This is especially true if your sofa is made of foam, which will release more of the chemicals as it disintegrates.

If you don't have the money to replace your furniture and carpeting, the researchers suggest sealing any tears in furniture and cleaning regularly to keep levels of dust down. They also suggest making regular hand-washing a household policy.

If you're on the market for a new couch, choose cotton, wool, or polyester over foam that's been treated with chemicals. You can also look for household products that are free of flame retardants.

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