Flame Retardants are a Reproductive Justice Issue
All Canadians are exposed to flame retardant chemicals in their homes, through products and food, and in their environment. Because flame retardants are so common, pregnant women and breast-feeding infants cannot avoid low-level exposures. A 2012 study found flame retardants in 92% of breast milk. Many common flame retardants disrupt hormone systems, and thus serious health effects can be triggered even at low doses when exposures occur during pivotal windows of development. This means that current exposures to flame retardants pose a greater burden to pregnant women, fetuses, infants and children. This is backed up by a national biomonitoring study that found infants age 0-6 months have the greatest exposure to flame retardants. Thus, our ubiquitous exposure to flame retardant chemicals is a reproductive justice issue because they affect people’s rights to bear healthy children, but also the health of children as they develop, the future health of descendants, and the ability of communities to thrive. Reproductive justice includes demanding that government and society ensure that conditions for these rights are met. The failure of Canada to effectively prohibit flame retardants violates this sense of reproductive justice. The exposures we build into the world now will stay with us for generations to come.