Chemical Exposure

Chemical Exposure

OSU School Readiness

How to reduce exposure to flame retardants in your home

Flame retardant chemicals have been added to many consumer products and building materials. This makes them hard to avoid. However, there are some things you can do to reduce your child’s exposure to these chemicals

How flame retardants enter house dust

Flame retardants can enter house dust through various pathways.

From furniture and electronics

Household items such as furniture (e.g., sofas, mattresses), electronics (e.g., TVs, computers), and carpeting often contain flame retardant chemicals. Over time, these chemicals can leach out and settle into dust particles.

Wearing down of products

As furniture, textiles, and electronic devices age or wear out, the flame retardant chemicals they contain can be released into the air and subsequently settle as dust.

Tracking from outdoors

Flame retardants used in outdoor settings (e.g., in car seats, outdoor furniture) can be tracked indoors on shoes or clothing, contributing to indoor dust contamination.

Actions to prevent child's exposure to house dust

To reduce your child's exposure to flame retardants in house dust, consider implementing the following preventive measures.

By taking these proactive steps, parents can help create a healthier indoor environment for their children and reduce exposure to flame retardant chemicals commonly found in house dust. Stay informed, stay cautious, and prioritize your family's well-being!

Regular cleaning

Vacuuming carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture regularly using a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter can help reduce dust accumulation and remove contaminants.

Use damp dusting

Instead of dry dusting, use a damp microfiber cloth to clean surfaces. This helps capture and remove dust particles more effectively.

Promote ventilation

Ensure proper ventilation in your home by opening windows and using exhaust fans. Improved air circulation can help reduce the concentration of indoor pollutants, including flame retardant particles. You can also use portable air HEPA air filters to help remove house dust from the air. These should be sized to the room. Learn how to buy the right size portable air filter.

Wash hands frequently

Encourage children to wash their hands regularly using soap and water for at least 20 seconds (this is two rounds of the happy birthday song). This is especially
important before eating, to minimize ingestion of dust particles that may contain flame retardants.

Remove deteriorating foam products

Over time, polyurethane foam that is in many furniture items can become brittle and crumbly. If you can, remove or replace or cover that product or replace the old foam with new foam. This will prevent flame retardants from migrating out of these products and getting into the house dust.

How to choose safer products

As parents, ensuring the safety and well-being of our children is a top priority. One often-overlooked aspect of child safety is minimizing exposure to flame retardant chemicals commonly found in household products. Flame retardants, while intended to enhance fire safety, can pose health risks when they accumulate in our indoor environment.

Here's a guide on how parents can make informed choices to select safer products and reduce their children's exposure to flame retardants.

By implementing these practical strategies, parents can significantly reduce the risk of bringing home exposures from work and help maintain a safe and healthy environment for themselves and their families. Remember, proactive prevention is key to safeguarding your well-being both on and off the job.

Read labels and certifications

Start by examining product labels and certifications to identify safer options. Look for labels that explicitly state "flame retardant-free" or "low-VOC" (volatile organic compounds). Additionally, seek out certifications like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for textiles or Greenguard for furniture, which indicate that the products meet stringent safety and environmental standards.

Choose natural and organic materials

Opt for products made from natural or organic materials that are less likely to contain flame retardants.

Examples include:


Select items crafted from solid wood, wool, cotton, or natural latex. These materials are naturally more fire-resistant and may not require chemical treatments.


Look for mattresses made from organic cotton, wool, or natural latex, which provide natural fire resistance without the need for chemical additives.

Children's clothing

Prefer clothing made from organic cotton or other natural fibers. Avoid synthetic fabrics that may have been treated with flame retardants.

Research brands and manufacturers

Take the time to research and choose reputable brands and manufacturers known for producing flame retardant-free products. Look for companies that prioritize using safer materials and transparently disclose product compositions. Online reviews, consumer advocacy websites, and eco-conscious parenting forums can be valuable resources for identifying trustworthy brands.

Avoid PVC and foam products

Be cautious of products made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane foam, as these materials often contain flame retardant chemicals. Instead, seek alternatives like natural rubber, organic cotton, or bamboo-derived fabrics for bedding and upholstery.

Consider secondhand and vintage items

Explore secondhand or vintage options for furniture and textiles, as older pieces are less likely to contain modern flame retardants. However, be mindful of older products. Make sure the item meet safety standards and are in good condition with no visible, crumbly foam. Also, read labels on furniture items to make sure they do not contain flame retardant chemicals.

Advocate for safer alternatives

Voice your preferences to retailers and manufacturers by expressing a desire for flame retardant-free options. Encourage businesses to prioritize safety and sustainability in their product offerings, ultimately driving positive change in the marketplace.

Stay informed and share knowledge

Keep yourself informed about emerging research and developments related to flame retardants and child safety. Share your knowledge with other parents and caregivers to collectively promote healthier choices for our families and communities.