I’ve been warning you about the dangers of the flame retardant chemicals known as PDBEs for years now.
You’ll find these endocrine disruptors hiding in many household items from furniture to electronics. And that’s a problem because they’re associated with a troubling list of health issues including…
- brain development issues
- learning and behavior problems in kids
- fertility issues
- liver toxicity
- altered thyroid hormone levels in adults.1
And the government has done very little to protect us from them. Although the United States banned two forms of PBDEs in 2004, some forms of the flame retardants are STILL in use.
But even the PBDEs that they’ve stopped manufacturing have staying power. And while their levels have been dropping they—along with other still legal versions of the creepy chemicals—can be found in our homes, both in products and in household dust.
Flame retardants linked to thyroid cancer
In other words, you encounter PBDEs every day. And researchers say that contact could be sending your risk for cancer skyrocketing.
A study presented at the Endocrine Society’s 99th annual meeting left many folks stunned. Researchers revealed that flame retardants found in many homes have links to the most common type of thyroid cancer in the United States, known as papillary thyroid cancer or PTC for short.2
Thyroid cancer rates have been climbing. And cases of PTC, in particular, have shot up at an alarming speed.
Suspecting that something in our environment might be behind the sharp rise, researchers collected house dust from the homes of 70 volunteers with PTC and 70 folks with no evidence of thyroid cancer. Plus they took blood samples and analyzed them for exposure to PBDE flame retardants.
PBDEs in house dust raise your risk for cancer
To make sure they were comparing apples to apples the scientists were careful to make sure all the volunteers were similar in terms of age, sex, race, weight, income, education, and even the length of time they had lived in their homes.
And to everyone’s surprise, there was a clear link between higher levels of PBDEs and a significant increase in the odds of thyroid cancer.
And we’re not talking about a small jump in odds either. In fact, folks living in houses with the highest dust levels of the PBDE called BDE-209 were more than TWICE as likely to have thyroid cancer as those with lowest levels of the flame retardant in their homes.
These chemicals are everywhere and the more exposure we have to them the more they build up in our body fat. And unfortunately, there’s no way to eliminate them.
But there ARE some steps you can take that could help reduce your exposure to PBDEs in your home.
Consider replacing furniture that’s over 10 years old. Older sofas, rugs, mattresses, and other furniture that uses foam padding or textiles are more likely to contain PBDEs.
And while newer fire retardants may have issues of their own, reducing your exposure to those that we now know are likely carcinogenic just makes sense.
2. HEPA filters:
Consider using a HEPA air filter. They can help trap the dust particles so you can safely remove them from your home.
There are also vacuums with HEPA filters that trap the dust, keeping it out of the air, so you don’t breathe it in.
Thoroughly wash your hands several times a day. Although it may seem a little too easy to be true, there’s research showing just washing your hands several times a day can significantly reduce your blood levels of PBDEs.
Research at the Boston University School of Public Health suggests that the invisible dust that sticks to the natural oils on our hands is likely providing a path for PBDEs to enter our bodies. But when folks exposed to the chemicals washed their hands four times a day, the levels of PBDEs in their blood were three times lower than those who didn’t have a regular hand-washing ritual.
And perhaps the most important thing you can do to combat these creepy chemicals is to support organizations like the Environmental Working Group. The EWG and organizations like it work to get tough regulations on these dangerous chemicals passed.
Take steps today to reduce your exposure to PBDEs, and lower your risk of thyroid cancer.
1. “Technical Fact Sheet – Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) and Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBBs), January 2014,” Technical Fact Sheet PBDEs and PBBs, United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved April 3, 2017 from epa.gov
2. The Endocrine Society 99th Annual Meeting, Florida. (2017, April 2). “Exposure to common flame retardants may raise the risk of papillary thyroid cancer,” ScienceDaily. Retrieved: April 3, 2017 from sciencedaily.com
3. “Exposure to PBDEs in the Office Environment: Evaluating the Relationship Between Dust, Handwipes, and Serum,” Environ Health Perspect, 2011 Sep;119(9):1247-52
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