FREE Thyroid Report & Newsletter

Safety-focused fire retardants cause damage to adrenals

Many of us have the overwhelming sense that we are exposed to a lot of chemicals in our daily lives, and that it’s probably damaging our health in some way. But when it comes to the specifics of where the chemicals come from and how they cause damage, it may be unclear.

One category of chemicals that are clearly a problem are organohalogen fire retardants. These ubiquitous chemicals were formulated for the purpose of improving fire safety in furniture, building materials, electronics, toys and children’s clothing as a means of slowing the rate at which a fire can take hold of a home. For several decades, the US government mandated that these consumer goods must contain fire retardants, most recently polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), in order to be sold.

Unfortunately, there were some downsides to PBDEs, such as the fact that they cause a doubling in the amount of smoke created when the item catches fire.

A few years ago, the EPA reversed its assertion that the brominated fire retardant PBDEs was safe. A depth of research has proven the health risks of this chemical. Knowing now that it’s a toxin, it is being phased out of use and replaced by newer chemicals.

The irony is that PBDEs came into existence as a solution to replace PCBs, which were also declared unsafe after decades of use and finally phased out in 1977. So we probably won’t be surprised when the new chemicals that are now replacing PBDE are eventually determined to be toxic to our health and then pulled off the market and replaced with a new chemical. We are literally putting out the fire with gasoline.

Organizations that care about public health have now become active in trying to stop this futile cycle of replacing one toxic chemical with another. There is a petition to phase out all organohalogen flame retardants for sake of the health of future generations. This petition isn’t just promoted by environmental activists, it’s also sponsored by The American Academy of Pediatrics and The National Hispanic Medical Association, among others. If you’re wondering what fire fighters think of this petition, the International Association of Fire Fighters is also a sponsor of eliminating toxic flame retardants. Being on the front line of burning homes and chemical-laden smoke inhalation, firefighters have more than double the rates of cancer as compared to the average person. In fact, many more firefighters die of cancer as compared to dying in a fire, and they place the blame squarely on flame retardant chemicals.

PBDEs may be being phased out, but much of our older furniture still contains it and continues to pose a significant risk to our health. The chemical coats the foam cushioning of a couch, for example, and over the years, the chemical off gasses and is distributed onto dust in our homes, which eventually makes its way into our body through ingestion and direct contact. PBDE accumulates and builds up in the environment and in our body, especially in the adrenal glands.

Now that PBDE has been widely distributed throughout our environment and living space for the past several decades, it has been determined to be a toxic endocrine disruptor. It interferes with hormone production and function as shown in clinical research, causing health issues related to fertility, thyroid, metabolism and even neurological function. Unfortunately, 97% of Americans have this chemical in their system.

Although a little late in the game, a new study shows us how PBDE affects the adrenal glands, where it tends to accumulate. This study was done in a lab by adding the chemical to adrenal cells to see how they react. What they learned is that the cells pumped out much more of the adrenal hormone aldosterone then they should. Adolsterone regulates blood pressure by balancing salt and water in the body. The problem is that when PBDEs force the body to make excessive amounts of aldosterone, it leads to high blood pressure and increased clotting. Over the long term, it potentially can cause the heart muscles to thicken and lead to congestive heart failure.

There are hundreds of other studies on PBDE showing how it damages the thyroid, reproduction and causes cancer. Fortunately this chemical is being taken off the market, and hopefully all organohalogen fire retardants will be removed in the near future. For more information on this important topic, see

Endocrine Society. “Common flame retardant chemical disrupts a hormone that is essential to life.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2016. .

About the Author:

Leave A Comment