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How you can reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals

Justin Saglio for the Boston Globe/file

There are thousands of chemicals in our furniture, electronics, cleaning products, construction materials, clothing, and more, and just a fraction of them are regulated. Yet mounting evidence links many of these substances — stain and water repellents, flame retardants, antimicrobials, and others — to diabetes, cancer, thyroid disease, immune system dysfunction, and effects on children’s cognitive development. The Green Science Policy Institute has tips on how to avoid some of the most common of these chemicals:

  • When buying upholstered furniture, look for a TB 117-2013 label stating the item does not contain flame retardants.
  • Replace upholstered furniture that has a TB 117 label, which indicates flame retardants.
  • Furniture and children’s products filled with polyester or wool instead of foam are unlikely to contain added flame retardants.
  • To reduce indoor dust levels, vacuum with a HEPA filter, wet mop, and dust with a damp cloth.
  • Wash hands often, especially before eating or preparing food.
  • Avoid using rebonded carpet padding made from recycled or scrap polyurethane foam.
  • Tell manufacturers, retailers, and government agencies you want products without flame retardants.
  • Choose carpets and textiles without water and stain repellents (known as PFAS), which are often sprayed on after the product is manufactured.
  • Be wary of products labeled “PFOA free,” a chemical in the PFAS family, as they often contain similar chemicals instead.
  • Avoid personal care products with “perfluor,” “polyfluor,” indicating the presence of PFAS chemicals, and “PTFE” (PFAS) on the label.

Sources: Green Science Policy Institute and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University.


Kay Lazar can be reached at kay.lazar@globe.com Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.