In the first public study of its kind, a type of foam carpet pad commonly sold in the USA was demonstrated to contain flame retardant chemicals that raise concerns about human health. Lowered IQ's in children exposed in utero, infertility, and cancer are among health effects linked to exposure from these halogenated chemicals.
U.S. samples were collected and submitted to the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) from Alaska, Washington State, Michigan and New York. POPs is an acronym for Persistent Organic Pollutants, the most dangerous chemicals in the world.
IPEN, an international organization working on toxic chemical issues, examined levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) in foam carpet pads commonly used throughout the United States.
PentaBDE and OctaBDE are released into dust and pose significant hazards for infants and toddlers. People who recycle foam and lay carpet also have been found to have 10 times the amount of these chemicals in their bodies as other people. PentaBDE is linked to reproductive toxicity, neurodevelopmental toxicity and negative effects on thyroid hormones. OctaBDE hazards include delayed neurotoxicity and immunotoxicity.
Both substances are listed in the treaty for global elimination, but governments granted an exemption that permits the recycling of foam and plastics containing them. In the United States, the voluntary agreement with manufacturers also contains a loophole that permits recycling of materials containing these substances into new consumer products.
"Several U.S. states have acted to ban PentaBDE and OctaBDE, and five states have also banned the third and most commonly used PBDE, DecaBDE," says Kathleen Curtis of Clean New York. "However, the majority of these laws exempt the use of these toxic chemicals in recycled content."
"Perhaps the largest justification for these and other hazardous flame retardant chemical use is a California regulation that essentially forces manufacturers to use dangerous chemicals in foam for products sold in California," explains Ana Mascarenas from Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles. "This week, a committee in the California Legislature decides on a bill that would release manufacturers from this obsolete regulation."
Environmental Health Fund