From Red Adair, the Texan who extinguished oil-well fires (think of John Wayne in the 1968 movie “Hellfighters”) to the first responders on 9/11, our fascination with firefighters starts as toddlers and never fades. Probably because fire is so frightening and firefighters are such heroes.
But our fear of fire has led us to douse everything from PJs to couches in fire-retardant chemicals — mostly PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) and chlorinated Tris. Now those chemicals are in the bloodstream of up to 97 percent of North Americans. It’s true, they reduce the risk of injury in a fire, and that’s good, but we’re also more likely to see decreased fertility in women, learning and coordination disabilities in kids and lower birth weights in newborns.
Seems that as the chemicals leach out of household products, such as electronics, carpets, fabrics and foam used in upholstered furniture, they can be inhaled or ingested. But you can do a lot to remove the peril from your home and protect your family:
Æ Discard dry, disintegrating foam cushions. Repair tears in upholstery because they may allow chemicals from cushions to drift into the air.
Æ Eighty percent of baby and kids’ clothes have fire-retardant chemicals in them, but you can avoid them by buying untreated, natural fabrics instead of highly flammable synthetics.
Æ Control household dust; vacuum and damp mop regularly.
Æ Bottom line: Read all labels and don’t buy carpet, carpet pads, furniture, bedding and fabrics with fire retardants. Say yes to naturally fire-resistant materials, including wool, cotton and hemp.
To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com. A King Features syndicate.