Flame Retardants

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Toxics Linked to Cancer Prevalent in Couches

By Christina Jewett, California Watch

Eight out of 10 couches contain flame retardant chemicals that are linked to heightened cancer risk, developmental delays in children or are lacking adequate health information, according to a study released today by researchers at UC Berkeley and Duke University.

(Chris Metcalf/Flickr)

(Chris Metcalf/Flickr)

The study also shows an increase in the number of couches bought throughout the U.S. that contain flame retardants. That number went up even though California is the only state that has a flame retardant regulation. While 75 percent of couches bought before 2005 contained a flame retardant chemical, the rate rose to 93 percent in couches bought since 2005, the study found.

“I didn’t expect to find such a high percentage of furniture bought outside of California to meet the standard,” said Arlene Blum, an author of the study and founder of the Berkeley-based Green Science Policy Institute. “It’s led to the use of more toxic chemicals.”

The study is coming out as California authorities, at the direction of Gov. Jerry Brown, are revising the state’s Technical Bulletin 117, which requires furniture foam to resist combustion when exposed to a flame for 12 seconds.

An updated bulletin is being drafted that will require couch upholstery to resist catching fire when it comes into contact with something, such as a cigarette, that is smoldering, according to Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the Department of Consumer Affairs, which includes the state’s furniture safety bureau.

The change would mean that many couches would meet the fire-safety standard as they are currently made, without adding chemicals to foam, Heimerich said. Continue reading

California Moving To New Rules on Flame Retardants

A diagram from the state's current regulation on fire-safety of upholstered furniture (State Technical Bulletin 117)

California regulators say they’re committed to eliminating toxic flame retardants from baby products and couches within a year.

“It’s huge,” says Arlene Blum, a visiting scholar in chemistry at U.C. Berkeley and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute

“We in California have had a unique flammability standard since 1975,” Blum says. “That [standard] has been met with pound levels of chemicals that are like DDT or PCBs in our couches. And they’re chemicals that are continually migrating out of couches into dust and they’re ending up in our pets and our children … and in us.”

This week Tonya Blood, the head of the department that oversees furniture regulations, told a state senate committee the agency is committed to getting rid of the old standard and replacing it with new fire-safety rules that can be met without the use of chemicals. Continue reading