How Clothes and Personal Care Products Destroy the Environment and Circulate Plastic Back Into the Food Supply

Story at-a-glance

  • Plastics can be found in virtually every area of your household: in containers of all kinds, bags, baby items, electronics and even clothing and personal care products, in the form of microfibers and microbeads
  • Microbeads, tiny plastic pellets found in body washes, facial scrubs and toothpaste travel right through wastewater treatment plants, clogging waterways and filling the bellies of sea animals with plastic that acts as a sponge for toxins
  • Plastic microfibers from clothing also pose a serious threat to marine life and migrate into fields and onto our plates, inside of fish and other seafood

While most of our grandparents used natural products packaged in reusable, recyclable or degradable containers made from glass, metals and paper, the current generation has grown up surrounded by non-biodegradable plastics made with toxic chemicals.

Saying that plastics are “everywhere” is hardly an exaggeration anymore. You can find it in virtually every area of your household: in containers of all kinds, bags, baby items, electronics and even clothing and personal care products, in the form of microfibers and microbeads.

Discarded plastic — both large and microscopic — circles the globe, choking our oceans and polluting our food supply, ultimately finding their way into your body where they can accumulate over time.

And, the potential for catastrophic environmental and biological consequences grows with every discarded bottle and bag, with every shower and every load of wash.

Plastic — A Most Harmful Convenience

Many of the chemicals used in the manufacture of plastics, like bisphenol-A (BPA) and bisphenol-S (BPS), disrupt embryonic development and have been linked to obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Phthalates dysregulate gene expression and hormones, causing anomalies that may be passed down to future generations. DEHP (di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate), found in PVC pipes, may lead to multiple organ damage.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, the world produces about 299 million tons of plastics annually, and up to 20 million tons of it ends up in our oceans each year.1The UN’s Environmental Program claims there are at least 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean.2

Polycarbonate, polystyrene and polyethylene terephthalate (PETE) damage the ocean floor, and plastic that floats, such as low-density polyethelene (LDPE), high-density polyethelene (HDPE), polypropylene and foamed plastics accumulate into massive floating islands of trash.3

Microfibers4 from clothing pose a serious threat to marine life and migrate into fields and onto our plates.

And microbeads, the tiny plastic pellets found in body washes, facial scrubs and toothpaste travel right through wastewater treatment plants, clogging waterways and filling the bellies of sea animals with plastic that acts as a sponge for other toxins.

Whether you look at environmental or biological effects, our careless use of plastics really needs immediate attention and revision.

Microbeads Pose Severe Environmental Hazards

According to a previous National Geographic report,5 an estimated 4,360 tons of microbeads were used in personal care products sold in the European Union (EU) in 2012, all of which get flushed down the drain.

According to one 2015 study,6 there may be as much as 236,000 tons of microbeads filling the water columns of our oceans. As noted by National Geographic:

“A study completed in 2015 from Environmental Science & Technology alarmingly found that [8] trillion microbeads were entering aquatic environments throughout the United States every day.

This troubling statistic poses the question of how such massive quantities of microplastics are impacting aquatic wildlife

… As reiterated from the study by the French Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea, ‘Oysters that consume microplastics eat more algae and absorb it more efficiently … [their] ability to reproduce is almost halved’ …

Filter feeding organisms are vital components of marine food webs, and their demise could mean severe threats to numerous trophic levels, and perhaps to the humans who rely on these species as a source of food.

Another concern with these foreign particles entering the oceans is that the chemicals comprising microplastics are causing reproductive complications in oysters, which is a very important point …

Chemical toxins such as DDT and BPA have been found to adhere to microplastic particles … which then ‘enter the food chain when ingested by aquatic life, accumulating in birds, fish, marine mammals and potentially humans.'”

US and Canada Ban Microbeads While EU Dawdles

In response to the Environmental Science & Technology study mentioned above, then-President Obama signed a bill in December, 2015, banning the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products to protect U.S. waterways.7 The ban takes effect as of July this year.

Beginning July, 2018, microbeads will also no longer be permitted in cosmetics, and as of July 2019, they must be eliminated from over-the-counter drugs sold in the U.S. as well.8 As of July, 2018, a ban on microbeads in personal care products also takes effect in Canada,9 while the EU has taken no action on the matter.

According to a recent article in the British paper Independent,10 the U.K.’s decision to follow suit in banning microbeads from cosmetics “could be in breach of EU free trade law,” and if it’s determined that banning microbeads would “restrict free movement of trade,” the U.K.’s ban would likely be significantly delayed and ultimately unenforceable. The U.K. alone contributes up to 86 tons of microbeads into waterways each year.11

Microfibers From Clothing Add to the Plastic Pollution

Microfibers are another common water contaminant, and acrylic fibers release the most microparticles.12 Testing reveals each washing of a synthetic fleece jacket releases 1.7 grams of microfiber, and the older the jacket, the more microfibers are released.13

Different types of machines also release different amounts of fibers and chemicals from your clothes. Researchers found that top loading machines released about 530 percent more microfibers than front loading models.14

Up to 40 percent of these microfibers leave the wastewater treatment plant and end up in the surrounding lakes, rivers and oceans. To address the problem, scientists are now calling for appliance companies to consider the addition of filters to catch the microfibers.15

Wexco is currently the exclusive distributor of the Filtrol 160 filter,16 designed to capture non-biodegradable fibers from your washing machine discharge. However, it doesn’t actually solve the problem in the long-term, since the fibers will simply end up in landfills instead.

Plastic Microparticles Threaten Ocean Life in Many Ways

Once in the water column, all this plastic micro-debris blocks sunlight, which plankton and algae require to sustain themselves, and the ramifications of this reverberates throughout the entire food chain. Astonishingly, in some ocean waters, plastic exceeds plankton by a factor of 6 to 1.17

Microfibers released during washing has also been shown to raise mortality among water fleas.18 In another study, the presence of the plastic fibers reduced the overall food intake of crabs, worms and langoustines (aka Norway lobster), thereby threatening their growth and survival rates.19,20 Not surprisingly, researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) have linked microplastics and microfibers to the pollution in fish.21

The tiny beads cleverly mimic natural food sources, and the microfibers, which are even more prevalent than microbeads, are even easier to consume, both by fish and other seafood. Research shows these particles are not likely to leave, however. Once consumed, they tend to remain in the body and accumulate, becoming increasingly concentrated in the bodies of animals higher up the food chain.

When Abigail Barrows, chief investigator for Global Microplastics Initiative, sampled 2,000 marine and freshwater fish, 90 percent had microfiber debris in their bodies. Near identical results were reported by Amy Lusher, a microplastics researcher based in the U.K. who co-authored a 2014 study22 on microplastic pollution in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean.

Microfibers have also been found in most water samples collected from the Hudson River,23 and studies show concentrations of fibers tend to be particularly high in beach sediment near waste water treatment plants.24 Making matters worse, these microscopic plastic fibers soak up toxins like a sponge, concentrating PCBs, flame retardant chemicals, pesticides and anything else found in the water.

And, since many of these toxins bind to fats, the fibers allow the toxins to bioaccumulate in the body much faster, reaching ever higher amounts as you move up the food chain. As noted in the featured video, these chemicals have been shown to cause liver damage, liver tumors and signs of endocrine disruption in fish and other seafood, including lowered fertility and immune function.

Seafood Is a Significant Source of Plastic in Human Food Chain

With all this plastic posing as food in the food chain, it’s no wonder researchers are finding it in our dinners as well. Last year, citing a report25 by the British Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs [DEFRA], the Daily Mail wrote:26

“Microplastics have been found in a wide variety of species including zooplankton, mussels, oysters, shrimp, marine worms, fish, seals and whales. Chemicals on microplastics ingested by an organism can dissociate from plastic particles and enter body tissues … [DEFRA] said there is evidence from animal studies that small plastic particles can cross membranes into cells, causing damage and inflammation.

Looking at the implications for humans, [DEFRA] said: ‘Several studies show that microplastics are present in seafood sold for human consumption, including mussels in North Sea mussel farms and oysters from the Atlantic. ‘The presence of marine microplastics in seafood could pose a threat to food safety.'”

According to the DEFRA report, eating six oysters could introduce about 50 plastic microbeads into your body. One-third of the fish caught in the English Channel also contain microbeads, as do 83 percent of scampi sold in the U.K.27

How You Can Be Part of the Solution

Our “disposable culture” has left a trail of destruction, in terms of both environmental and human impact. Now, how can you contribute to the solution? In short, by becoming a more conscious consumer. Really give some thought to the manufacturing of the products you buy, how they may affect you during use, and what will happen to them once you dispose of them. Few of us are capable of living a zero-waste lifestyle at this point in time, but every single one of us can take small but definitive steps toward the goal of reducing plastic trash in all of its forms. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

Reduce your use of all things plastic: Purchase products that are not made from or packaged in plastic. While the items involved are near-endless, here are a few ideas:

Use reusable shopping bags for groceries

Bring your own mug when indulging in a coffee drink, and skip the lid and the straw

Bring drinking water from home in glass water bottles, instead of buying bottled water

Store foods in glass containers or mason jars as opposed to plastic containers or bags

Take your own leftover container to restaurants

Request no plastic wrap on dry cleaning

Avoid personal care items containing microbeads. Many products containing microbeads will advertise them on the label, although they may also be listed as “polyethylene” or “polypropylene” in the ingredients list

Avoid microfiber clothing such as fleece, and/or wash them as infrequently as possible

Recycle what you can: Take care to recycle and repurpose products whenever possible, and/or participate in “plastic drives” for local schools, where cash is paid by the pound

Support legislation: Support legislative efforts to manage waste in your community; take a leadership role with your company, school and neighborhood

Get creative: If you have a great idea, share it! People’s capacity to come up with smarter designs and creative recycling and repurposing ideas are limitless, and creative innovations move us toward a more sustainable world

3 ‘Modern’ Inventions That Existed Millions of Years Ago: Nuclear Reactor, Telescope, Clothes

In Beyond Science, Epoch Times explores research and accounts related to phenomena and theories that challenge our current knowledge. We delve into ideas that stimulate the imagination and open up new possibilities. Share your thoughts with us on these sometimes controversial topics in the comments section below.

Evidence exists pointing to prehistoric civilizations as advanced as our modern civilization—or perhaps more advanced.

Such evidence could turn our scientific certainties upside down. It wouldn’t be the first time—the history of science proves, after all, that science has been grossly wrong on countless occasions.

Paradigm shifts are ushered in amid abundant controversy. The following discoveries have been contested, but some scientists have maintained that they constitute indisputable evidence that tens of thousands, or even many millions of years ago, humans walked the earth with as much knowledge and culture as today’s people.

1. A Nuclear Reactor 1.8 Billion Years Old

In 1972, a French factory imported uranium ore from Oklo, in Africa’s Gabon Republic. To its surprise, it found the uranium had already been extracted.

They found the site of origin to be a large-scale highly advanced nuclear reactor that came into being 1.8 billion years ago and was in operation for some 500,000 years.

Scientists gathered to investigate, with many explaining it away as a wondrous, yet natural, phenomenon.

Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg, former head of the United States Atomic Energy Commission and Nobel Prize winner for his work in the synthesis of heavy elements, explained why he believes it wasn’t a natural phenomenon, and thus must be a man-made nuclear reactor.

For uranium to “burn” in a reaction, very precise conditions are needed.

The water must be extremely pure, for one. Much purer than exists naturally anywhere in the world.

The material U-235 is necessary for nuclear fission to occur. It is one of the isotopes found naturally in uranium.

Several specialists in reactor engineering have said they believe the uranium in Oklo could not have been rich enough in U-235 for a reaction to take place naturally.

Furthermore, it seems the reactor was more advanced than anything we could build today. It was several miles in length and the thermal impact to its environment was limited to 40 meters (about 131 feet) on all sides. The radioactive waste is still contained by surrounding geological elements and has not migrated beyond the mine site.

The Oklo, Gabon Republic, nuclear reactor site.

2. Peruvian Stone Showing an Ancient Telescope, Modern-Style Clothing

It is thought that Galileo Galilei invented the telescope in 1609. A stone believed to have been engraved as long as 65 million years ago, however, shows a human figure holding a telescope and observing the stars.

About 10,000 stones housed in the Cabrera Museum in Ica, Peru, show prehistoric humans wearing headdresses, clothes, and shoes. The stones depict scenes similar to organ transplants, cesarean sections, and blood transfusions—and some show encounters with dinosaurs.

While some say the stones are fake, Dr. Dennis Swift, who studied archaeology at the University of New Mexico, documented in his book “Secrets of the Ica Stones and Nazca Lines” evidence that the stones date back to Pre-Columbian times.

Swift says one of the reasons the stones were considered fake in the 1960s is that, at the time, it was believed dinosaurs walked dragging their tails, but the stones depict dinosaurs with their tails up, and thus were thought to be inaccurate.

Later studies showed, however, that dinosaurs likely walked with their tails up, as depicted on the stones.

3. Advanced Culture in Cave Paintings

The La Marche caves in west-central France contain depictions over 14,000 years old of people with short hair, groomed beards, tailored clothing, riding horseback and suited in modern style—a far cry from the animal-skin loin cloths we usually imagine.

These paintings were confirmed as genuine in 2002. Investigators, such as Michael Rappenglueck of the University of Munich, insist that these important artifacts are simply ignored by modern science.

Rappenglueck has studied the advanced astronomical knowledge of Palaeolithic people. He writes: “For some years it has been left to broader media coverage (in the form of printed matter, audio-visual material, electronic media and planetarium programs) to raise awareness of proto-astronomy (as well as proto-mathematics and other proto-sciences) during Palaeolithic times.”

Some of the stones from La Marche cave are on display at Paris’s Museum of Man, but the ones that clearly portray prehistoric people with advanced culture and thought are not to be seen.

Cave painting from the cave of Altamira in the Anthropos Pavilion of The Moravian Museum in the Czech Republic. 

When paintings from more than 30,000 years ago were first discovered in the caves of Europe in the 19th century, they challenged the commonly accepted understanding of prehistory. One of the greatest critics of the discovery, Emile Cartailhac, came around decades later and became a leading force in proving the paintings are genuine and raising awareness of their importance.

He is now considered a founding father of cave art studies.

The first paintings were discovered by Don Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, a Spanish nobleman, and his daughter, Maria, in 1879 in the Altamira cave. They showed an unexpected sophistication.

The discovery was dismissed, until the early 20th century when Cartailhac published a study of the paintings.

The Hidden Health Hazards Lurking in Your Clothes

Washing your clothes is not as harmless as you might imagine. Detergents carry toxins and your clothes lose microfibers when washed, polluting the water supply. Your clothes may also harbor flame retardant chemicals, even if you carefully purchase “green” furniture.

Chemicals in Clothes

Story at-a-glance

  • Top loading washing machines agitate microfibers from fleece clothing. Based on one company’s sales estimates, 100,000 jackets washed in one year result in the equivalent of 11,900 plastic grocery bags’ worth being released into the environment
  • Flame retardants that coat your clothes and/or are trapped by your clothes from your furniture and dust particles, are released into wastewater when washed
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), flame retardant chemicals, collect in your lipid tissue, disrupting hormones, interfering with learning and memory and may be linked to genetic defects

Just as purchasing organic foods is integral to your overall health and wellness, so is purchasing organic fabrics. The benefits of organic clothing relate to that which is ABSENT from the fabric — toxic chemicals and pesticides.

Lightweight, synthetic polyester fabrics, while popular because they are fast-drying, also retain more odor-causing bacteria than organic cotton material.1 In a study using 26 volunteers, researchers found the odor-causing bacteria under your arms is different than those populating your polyester t-shirt.

The microbes on the polyester are difficult to remove and cause you to smell before you even start your workout. Most manufactured clothing has also been sprayed with flame retardant chemicals. While they may wash out of your clothes, this adds toxins into the water supply.

Your Clothes May Poison Food Supply

How flame retardant chemicals and phthalates are found in the environment has puzzled scientists as the manufacturers have not reported spillages. Turns out these hormone disruptors and potential carcinogens appear to be making their way into the waterways through your washing machine.

In a recent study from the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), researchers were able to directly link plastics and man-made fibers to the pollution in fish you may have eaten last night.

The researchers sampled fish from markets in Indonesia and California, finding the difference was not in the amount of pollutants, but in the type between both countries.

Lead author of the study, Chelsea Rochman, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow at UC Davis School of Medicine, was quoted in EcoWatch, saying:2

“It’s interesting that there isn’t a big difference in the amount of debris in the fish from each location, but in the type — plastic or fiber. We think the type of debris in the fish is driven by differences in local waste management.”

Each washing of a synthetic fleece jacket releases 1.7 grams of microfiber. The older the jacket, the more microfibers are released.3 Up to 40 percent of these microfibers leave the wastewater treatment plant and end up in the surrounding lakes, rivers and ocean.

Current studies have found microfibers are more prevalent than microbeads, and are particularly dangerous, as the fibers are small enough to easily be eaten by fish and other wildlife, accumulating in the gut and concentrating in the bodies of other animals higher up the food chain.

Fibers are found in both marine and freshwater fish. When Abigail Barrows, chief investigator for Global Microplastics Initiative, sampled over 2,000 marine and fresh water fish, 90 percent had microfiber debris in their bodies.

Patagonia Took a First Step

Ecologist Mark Browne, Ph.D., post-doctoral fellow at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, published a study during which he sampled sediment from 15 beaches around the world.4 He found high concentrations of acrylic and polyester fibers close to waste water treatment plants.

He reached out to large manufacturers to help fund further study, but only one company, Eileen Fisher, a clothing company that promotes sustainable manufacturing of clothes, offered to help.

In 2015, more research into the effects of microfibers in the environment was published and Jill Dumain, Patagonia’s director of environmental strategy, was paying attention. They commissioned a study to determine if products from Patagonia were contributing to the problem.

The new study found that during laundering, one fleece jacket may release as many as 250,000 microfibers. Based on an estimate from sales of the jackets, 100,000 jackets washed in one year would result in the equivalent of 11,900 plastic grocery bags released into the environment, from just one company.5

Washing machines also play a role in releasing microfibers into the wastewater. Scientists are calling for appliance companies to investigate the effectiveness of adding filters to catch the microfibers.6

Research found that top loading machines released 5.3 times more microfibers than front loading models.7 Swedish statistician Hans Rosling estimates the problem will only grow as the number of washing machines put into use continues to climb.

In 2010, 2 billion people used washing machines, and 9 billion worldwide are expected to use them by 2050.8

Flame Retardants and Plasticizers Move From the Air to Your Clothes

Flame retardants are used in furniture, electronics, polyurethane foam, cables, clothing and building insulation. This group of chemicals does not break down into safer chemicals in the environment.

They may travel great distances from the point of origin, accumulate in people and animals in the food chain and have long-term toxic effects.9

In recent years, flame retardant chemicals have come under fire as studies show they do not work well and are extremely toxic, posing a severe health hazard to fire fighters.

When the tobacco industry was pressured into making cigarettes safer to protect against house fires, tobacco manufacturers paired with chemical companies to convince officials that dousing furniture in chemicals was a better choice than altering the cigarettes.10

The ruse worked, but firefighter, health, science and consumer groups are now pushing for a ban on flame retardants, as studies show they pose serious health risks even when not lit.

Exposure to these chemicals at a critical point in development may damage your reproductive system, and cause deficits in learning, memory, motor skills and behavior. Some have also been identified as carcinogenic.11

Now, a pilot study has found cotton and polyester fabrics pick up not only flame retardant chemicals but also plasticizers, such as phthalates, from indoor air.12Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastics more pliable. They leach out from the plastics as the product ages, and are toxic to you and the environment.

Phthalates have carcinogenic effects and affect reproduction and development.13When clothing carrying the chemicals is washed, the chemicals enter wastewater and are released into the environment.14

What’s the Problem With These Chemicals?

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been used as flame retardantchemicals for the past 25 years. Unfortunately, they don’t work as promised and actually produce more toxic smoke than untreated objects. Once in your home, they become a part of the dust and air you breathe.

PBDEs are classified as persistent organic pollutants by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meaning they persist in the environment and your body, particularly fatty tissue. This includes your brain, which is 60 percent lipids.15

Scientists from the U.S. and Beijing discovered PBDE-47 was instrumental in interfering with the growth of new neurons that are necessary for learning and memory in adults.16

Perhaps the most condemning evidence against this class of chemicals is the role they may play in autism. When the brains of adults with autism were examined, researchers found persistent organic pollutants in every sample.

Exposure to phthalates can occur when you microwave foods in plastic containers, eat or drink foods that were wrapped or stored in plastic, when children suck or chew on soft plastic or vinyl products, and if you are exposed to medical devices such as IV tubing, blood transfusions and catheters.

Read labels, call the manufacturer and ask your healthcare provider to use phthalate-free products.17 Studies on lab animals indicate phthalates have the following effects:18

  • Early onset puberty
  • Poor male reproductive development
  • Impaired hormone system function
  • Reproductive and genital defects
  • Low testosterone levels and sperm count in adolescent males

Chemicals in Your Clothes May Damage Your Fertility

A number of studies have demonstrated a 50 percent decline in adult male sperm count over the last 50 years.19 Reasons have included poor diet, stressful lifestyle and environmental factors. Recently, researchers found microfibers released from your clothing may bind with chemicals, such as phthalates and flame retardants, in your laundry before released into the sewer system.

Phthalates are easily released from plastics as they are not chemically bound to the product. This is why many soft plastics become hard and brittle over time. The phthalates are deposited into your air, food and liquids. Phthalates affect not only the amount of sperm but also the quality of the genetic material, 20 affecting both fertility and the health of your children.21

Studies have also demonstrated that women with the highest concentrations of phthalates suffer the lowest levels of libido.22  Emily Barrett, Ph.D., who studies prenatal phthalate exposure, was quoted in the Telegraph, saying:23

“Low libido can take its toll on relationships and wellbeing. For a lot of women with loss of libido there is no obvious reason why and it is important to know [how] these chemicals might contribute. The leading source of some phthalates is food. We think that the more processing food goes through, the more likely it is to take these chemicals on.

One of the recommendations that might be made to potentially lower your exposure is to eat less processed food and to pick fresh things without packaging. Organic foods are maybe better because phthalates are sometimes used in pesticides. But you are never going to be able to totally eliminate phthalates from your life unless policy changes.”

How to Reduce Your Exposure to Phthalates

Until policy changes, it may be impossible to eliminate phthalates entirely from your environment. However, you can make a significant impact on your health and that of your children by recognizing the products high in phthalates and reducing or eliminating them from your immediate environment.

Products containing phthalates include the following. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but may serve to help you identify the products in your home most likely to increase your risk.24

Vinyl raincoats and rain boots Household cleaners, glues and paints Steering wheels, vinyl seating and plastic consoles Plastic food wraps and soft plastic food containers
Shower curtains Soft plastic toys Nail polish and hair spray Scented candles
PVC water pipes, vinyl flooring and mini-blinds Plastic school supplies Scented shampoos, soaps, moisturizers and aftershave lotions Sex toys and lubricating oils

How to Reduce Your Exposure to Flame Retardants

Like phthalates, flame retardants are so widely used that it’s difficult to avoid them completely. However, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure, including the following:

Avoid fire-resistant, stain-resistant and/or water-repellant fabrics. Your best bet is to buy organic fabrics, especially when it comes to clothing.

Avoid upholstered furniture with the TB117 label. If the label states: “This article meets the flammability requirements of California Bureau of Home Furnishings Technical Bulletin 117,” it most likely contains flame retardants.

However, even upholstered furniture that’s unlabeled may contain flame retardants. To find out if your furniture contains flame retardants, you can send a sample to Duke University. For more information and full instructions, please see my previous article, “Firefighters Are Still Fighting Deadly Flame Retardants.”

Furniture products filled with cotton, wool or polyester tend to be safer than chemical-treated foam; some products also state that they are “flame-retardant free.” Organic wool (100 percent) is naturally flame-resistant.

Avoid baby products with foam. Nursing pillows, high chairs, strollers and other products containing polyurethane foam most likely contain flame retardants.

Avoid foam carpet padding. If possible, minimize the use of foam carpet padding, which often contains flame retardants. If removing carpeting, take precautions to avoid exposures. You’ll want to isolate your work area from the rest of your house to avoid spreading it around, and use a HEPA filter vacuum to clean up.

PBDEs are often found in household dust, so clean up with a HEPA-filter vacuum and/or a wet mop often. Be especially careful with polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses and pillows, as these are most likely to contain PBDEs.

If you have any of these in your home, inspect them carefully and replace ripped covers and/or any foam that appears to be breaking down. Also avoid reupholstering furniture by yourself as the reupholstering process increases your risk of exposure.