The Green movement has made recycling trendy. In most cases recycled products are great; they reuse resources and are safe, but when it comes to carpet padding, think again. A recent study tested recycled foam padding from six countries where it is used, and concluded that 88% of the samples from the United States, Canada and Hungary contained one or more toxic flame retardants. Only a few years ago, the global scientific community decided that, pentaBDE and octaBDE, two brominated flame retardants, were so harmful that they needed to be eliminated globally and added these substances to the Stockholm Convention. 173 countries that have ratified the treaty but the United States is not one of them. As SaferChoices reported last week, flame retardants cause harm to the reproductive system and the development of the brain, probably through effects on thyroid hormones. Flame retardants are released into the dust. The highest levels of dust will be on the floor so children are heavily exposed due to their amount of floor-time play.
With over 12.3 billion pounds of recycled foam padding is in homes and offices in the United States, what are you to do? Try to keep your home or office as dust-free as possible. If you plan to remodel, consider non-carpet options. "Another might be to put some sort of additional rug on top of the carpet to act a physical barrier. But even if the carpeting in every home and office in America were removed, these chemicals would still be around. What’s really needed is an alternative that does not contain these substances.
As consumers we believe that surely some government agency is making sure that the products we purchase are safe, right? But the truth is that nobody is checking because the chemical laws in this country are very out-dated and the default position of our government is that until a chemical can be proven harmful, it's safe. The EPA has safety data on 200 of the more than 84,000 chemicals that are in use. That blows my mind! Look at BPA - it was being used for many years and thought of as safe until many studies showed otherwise. For whatever reason, the United States is behind many other developed nations when it comes to safety measures for it's people.
If you want to take a stand, ask your senator to support the Safer Chemicals Act of 2011. Click here and take a moment to fill out a form that will be sent to your senator.