Concerns raised over the 'cocktail of chemicals' found in British mothers' breast milk due to home furnishings

UK mothers’ breast milk has some of the highest concentrations of flame retardants in the world [Photo: Getty]
UK mothers’ breast milk has some of the highest concentrations of flame retardants in the world [Photo: Getty]

Babies could be being exposed to harmful chemicals from birth, with mothers’ breast milk being found to contain a high concentration of flame retardants, a new report reveals.

The warning comes from the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, which raised concerns about flame-retardant chemicals found in home furnishings.

The chemicals used in UK upholstery, furniture and electronics are considered to be of “very high concern” and could be linked to cancers and reproductive issues, the report warns.

Though many of the compounds have been banned following fears about their harmful effects, concerns persist because of their previous widespread use and the fact the chemicals could build up in the body.

"Most people assume that they aren't at risk from toxic chemicals but the reality is different,” committee chairwoman Mary Creagh said.

"Mums in the UK have some of the world's highest concentrations of flame retardants in their breast milk, some of which have now been banned.

"Chemical flame retardants are still being widely used in our furnishings from children's mattresses to sofas.

"Meanwhile, the government is sitting on its hands instead of changing regulations to ensure that the most toxic chemicals are taken out of use."

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The committee is calling on the government to take action [Photo: Getty]
The committee is calling on the government to take action [Photo: Getty]

Following concerns raised in the report, the committee is calling for the UK’s 1988 Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations to be amended to include a new flammability test standard.

It wants the government to introduce a permanent label for all upholstered furniture clearly indicating whether it has been treated with chemical flame retardants and which ones were used.

Responding to the concerns raised a government spokesman said UK safety requirements are "the highest in Europe".

"We are committed to improving environmental outcomes and reducing toxicity but need to do so in a clear, well evidenced way which also improves fire safety.

"We are committed to publishing our response to the review of furniture fire safety regulations before recess to ensure the highest levels of safety are both maintained and improved."

The committee also discussed fears over chemicals found in plastic and food packaging.

“There are a huge number of chemicals used in plastic and food packaging, some of which have been identified as harmful to human health and the environment,” the report reads.

It warns that “foetuses, children and pregnant women are most at risk” as these chemicals can have a bigger impact at critical stages of brain development.

Committee members are now calling for immediate action.

“We call on manufacturers to be more transparent about the chemicals used in their packaging to enable consumers make informed decisions.”

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This isn’t the first time concerns have been raised about the chemicals humans are potentially being exposed to.

Last month, it was revealed we could be consuming up to 52,000 microplastic particles a year

The research, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found microplastics present in the air, soil, rivers and oceans are making their way into human bodies.

Last year, scientists also revealed that humans are ingesting microscopic plastic particles in their food.

The study’s researchers found that people eat tiny pieces of plastic along with their food – after a test on faeces found plastic in every sample investigated.

People from the UK and seven other countries took part in the study – and up to 20 pieces of plastic were found in every 10g of stool sample.