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.
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