Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, November 21, 2014

Beware Flame Retardant Furniture Chemicals

"We are detecting these carcinogens in people and some of these carcinogens are not new."
"When we tried to answer that question [levels in people], we realized the analytical methods weren't there."
"Now it is really up to the consumer to ask for furniture to be flame retardant-free. That is where we are going. By increasing transparency and information about the chemicals that we use in our furniture and our building materials we can have a consumer-driven shift away from using these chemicals when they are just not necessary."
Robin Dodson research scientist, Silent Spring Institute, California

"The government takes the approach of dealing with one chemical at a time, and a lot of these flame retardants have similar properties."
"It is a situation where in both California and Canada we have a very reactive regulatory framework that deals with chemicals management. Some of these numbers are not that surprising."

Fe De Leon, researcher, Canadian Environmental Law Association
Photo: Toxic flame retardants are a burning issue
Toxic chemicals are released into the environment during manufacturing and when products containing them are discarded. (Credit: localsurfer via Flickr)

Traces of chlorinated tris [TCEP], a carcinogenic chemical, were discovered in the urine of fifteen of sixteen California residents by researchers performing a new study on flame retardants. The results of their study were published in the periodical Environmental Science and Technology this week. TCEP has been banned in California from children's sleepwear for the past 40 years, but it has been used as well in furniture. Which, of course, off-gases.

Dust from furniture was found to contain high trace levels of flame retardants, stimulating researchers to seek an answer to the question that occurred to them: What about people, what are the levels of the chemicals likely to appear in the human body? Earlier recent studies demonstrated that flame retardants used in furniture have no real effectiveness in preventing or diminishing the effect of fires. And then there is the inconvenient fact that TCEP can do harm to humans' nervous and reproductive systems.
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Alternatives are available to these conventional and quite useless flame retardant chemicals in furniture. Yet the public is quite unaware that the chemicals are used in the manufacture of the furniture they purchase and have in their homes, placing them in potential peril as the chemicals seep into their bloodstreams. The chemical TCEP is commonly used in polyurethane foam, plastics, polyester resins and textiles.

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A United Nations expert committee last month recommended governments give serious consideration to adding the flame retardant DecaBDE to a list of chemicals that should be banned globally. Health Canada moved in April of 2014 to ban the use of TCEP in products specifically intended for infants and children up to the age of three, stopping short of an outright ban on the products.

If you don't plan to get rid of your TV and furniture, the simple answer is to dust.
Studies have shown that consumer products, not industrial releases, are the likely source of flame retardants or, PBDEs (building up in people and animals).
These toxic chemicals — found in furniture, carpets and electronics — have been linked to cancer, adverse effects on the developing brain, and immune and reproductive problems. They are also persistent and bioaccumulative, which means they build up in the environment and our bodies (and in the bodies of animals like polar bears and killer whales). -- David Suzuki Foundation

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