What was meant to protect us against fire but 39 years later, we now know that its use has come at a high price to our collective health and environment. Flame retardant chemicals have been used in furniture and children’s products since 1975 to meet the California furniture flammability standard called Technical Bulletin (TB117). It’s in the foam of furniture, stroller and car seats, crib mattresses and sleep mats, just to name a few products.
I’ve been following the good work being done on flame retardant research by Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute, for two reasons:
- I’m a mother of two young children and
- I’m an architect that designs for the built environment
According to the Green Science Policy Institute, “Flame retardants are associated with endocrine disruption, immunotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, cancer and adverse effects on fetal and child development and neurologic function. Additionally, flame retardants are a global contaminant and affect wildlife and the environment. They do not break down into safer chemicals and when burned, create toxic carcinogenic byproducts.”
Babies are exposed to these chemicals in utero and through mother’s milk. Dust particles are an easy means for people to inhale and ingest these chemicals, especially young children that crawl and play on the floor.
However, as bleak as it may seem, there is good news. As of January 1, 2014, the old TB117 is replaced with TB117-2013 which exempts most children’s products and furniture from meeting the California flammability standards. Furniture manufacturers are required to meet full compliance of TB117-2013 by 2015, so if you are thinking of replacing your couch or upholstered chair, wait until next year to buy them. But if you like your couch, there are already flame-retardant-free foam options available through foam replacement programs like the Safer Sofa Foam Exchange Program.
There are small steps we can take to work towards a safer, healthier living environment.
- Encourage your preferred furniture manufacturer to produce flame retardant free furniture.
- Have your sofa cushions tested for free.
- Sign up for the Safer Sofa Foam Exchange Program.
- Encourage your legislator to promote safer building materials policies and guidelines.
- Learn more by watching Toxic Hot Seat an HBO flame retardant documentary which is being streamed live on Bestselling author Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website, Mercola.com, through July 25th.Click here to watch or register here to attend tonight’s screening.