Toxic Chemical in Household Products Endangers Children’s Health

Media Contacts
Jenny Levin

Baltimore – An unlikely coalition of nurses, firefighters, consumer advocates and concerned parents have joined forces to call on the Maryland General Assembly to ban a toxic chemical and switch to safer alternatives.

Deca is a chemical used by some manufacturers of televisions and furniture to make sure their products meet flammability standards.  The problem is that Deca is toxic, and threatens the health of children.  Over time, the chemical leeches out of products and accumulates in household dust, which gets into food and the air in our homes.

“Studies show that Deca can damage the developing brain, affecting behavior, learning, and memory.  These affects can be permanent and worsen with age,” said Brenda Afzal, the Director for the Environmental Health Education Center  at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

An Environmental Working Group report released by Maryland PIRG last Fall revealed that American children have the highest levels of Deca in their bodies of any population in the world. 

Firefighters are at risk when the chemical burns as Deca releases a highly corrosive gas known as hydrogen bromide.  “Firefighters are too often exposed to toxic gases while on the job,” said Baltimore City’s Fire Marshal Ray O’Brocki.  “Firefighters face plenty of danger as it is.  We don’t need toxic chemicals to make matters worse.”

Safe substitutes to Deca exist, and companies such as Sony, Dell, Apple, and Ikea no longer use Deca while still meeting stringent flammability standards. 

“Many companies use non-toxic alternatives, or they’ve switched to naturally flame resistant materials that do not require chemicals” said Fielding Huseth, a consumer advocate with Maryland PIRG.  “The bottom line is that consumers should be able to buy a television or a sofa that doesn’t threaten their children’s health.”

“I have done everything imaginable to keep my baby safe from lead including repainting my house and buying only the safest toys,” said Elizabeth Riddlington, a Baltimore City mother of a 2 month old baby.  “But there is little I can do on my own to keep my baby safe from Deca.”

Sen. Lenett and Del. Hubbard sponsored legislation to phase out the use of Deca in Maryland. The bill passed the House 122-12 and now awaits a vote in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

“We urge the General Assembly to take the next step in protecting children from toxic chemicals by phasing out the use of Deca,” said Huseth.  “Washington and Maine have just banned the toxic chemical in their own states.  Maryland’s children and firefighters deserve the same.”