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November 28, 2012

Cancer-Causing Flame Retardants and Other Toxics Increasingly Found in Couches - New Study

Californians Call for Improved Fire Safety Without Chemicals Now

(Los Angeles) Physicians, firefighters, consumers, business owners, environmental and public health advocates urge immediate action in response to a new study showing an increase in toxic flame retardants in couches nationwide.

Earlier this year, Governor Jerry Brown announced that California’s flammability standard would be updated to promote fire safety and protect the public from toxic chemicals. This study, published in Environmental Science & Technology underscores the immediate need for improved fire safety standards and protection from toxic flame retardant chemicals

Sue Chiang, with Center for Environmental Health and a study participant, says, “It is really distressing as a parent of two young children to learn that kids in California have the highest level of flame retardants in their bodies of anywhere in the nation. As a mom, you want to protect your children from harm. I unknowingly brought harm into my home when I purchased a new couch in California laden with flame retardant chemicals. Your home should be a place of comfort, not a place of toxic exposure. California should fast track changing its outdated standards so that families don’t have to be needlessly exposed to these toxic chemicals.”

Dr. Arlene Blum, executive director of Green Science Policy Institute, and co-author of the couch study says, “Hard to believe, 35 years after our research contributed to removing chlorinated Tris from children's sleepwear, our current study suggests that more than a third of Americans couches contain the same toxic flame retardant," said Dr. Blum, co-author of the study and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "And sadly enough, many Americans could now have increased cancer risks from the chlorinated Tris in their furniture.”

One reason for the proliferation of toxic flame retardant chemicals in couches across the country is an obsolete California regulation that, de facto, forces the chemicals in foam for products meant for sale in California.

Governor Brown’s Bureau of Home Furnishings & Thermal Insulation (BHFTI) is working hard to on an improved regulation that supports fire safety without the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals. Flame retardant chemical manufacturers are already misrepresenting scientific studies on fire safety and health to keep their toxic products on the market – we support the Governor to keep moving forward with immediate action to protect our health.


“Firefighters are at extraordinarily increased risk with flame retardant chemicals in couches,” says Tony Stefani, from the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation. “We already suffer from more cancer and unusual cancers than found in the general public. Getting rid of chemicals in couches can help prevent cancer in firefighters and other first responders when couches burn, because they do burn even with the flame retardant chemicals in them. In fact, the chemicals created more soot and smoke, making the fires even more dangerous.”


Californians for Toxic Free Fire Safety

Action to Urge Governor Brown to Update the Furniture Flammability Standard and Other Actions to Protect the Public from Flame Retardants