Get Toxic Flame Retardants Out of Our Furniture

Target: California Legislature

Goal: Stop mandating the use of toxic flame retardants in furniture

In the 1970s, a ruled was passed in California mandating that furniture must be able to resist catching fire for at least 12 seconds.  This law effectively set a nation-wide standard for the use of flame retardants called organohalogens in the foam that fills things like couches and love seats.  However, recent studies show that the toxins used are increasingly showing up in human bodies and causing health effects.  Urge the California legislature to pass a new law that amends the standards and provides an alternative to toxic flame retardants.

There is a small group within organohalogens called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (pBDEs) that have been linked to adverse health effects including cancer, learning disabilities, thyroid irregularity and reproductive abnormalities.  Exposure to these chemicals is particularly dangerous for firefighters, pregnant women and children.  The Environmental Working Group conducted a study that found Deca, a particular pBDE, was present in 10 out of 10 samples of umbilical cord blood taken from newborns.  And though the furniture industry would have you believe that the benefits of these flame retardants far outweighs their negative effects, there is research that suggests that some of these retardants don’t even work.  They simply increase the amount of visible smoke and smoke is what causes chronic lung disease in firefighters.

In addition to showing up in the human body, toxic flame retardants have also been found in killer whales, fish and other animals.  pBDEs can stay in the environment for years before they break down.  It’s no wonder that their presence in breast milk has increased 40-fold since 1972.  Ikea has responded to the ongoing debate over flame retardants by announcing that they will phase out furniture containing them and other stores are expected to follow.  And although the proposed amendments to the California law do not suggest an alternative to pBDEs, they are a crucial step in gaining awareness and challenging the use of toxins that may not even effectively stop fires.  Tell the California legislature to take a stand for our health and the environment and pass the proposed amendments.

PETITION LETTER:

Members of the California Legislature,

California Technical Bulletin 117, passed in 1975, effectively created a nation-wide standard for the use of flame retardants in furniture.  The law, which stated that furniture must be able to resist catching fire for at least 12 seconds, drastically increased the use of chemical additives called organohalogens to make furniture more flame resistant.  But recent studies show that a certain class of these chemicals, known as pBDEs, are showing up in the environment and in our bodies.  And their causing problems.  They’ve been linked to cancer, learning disabilities, thyroid irregularity and birth defects.  Swedish scientists have seen their presence in breast milk increase 40-fold since the 70s and an environmental group found them present in 10 out of 10 samples of umbilical cord blood taken from newborns.  They’ve been found in killer whales, fish and insects.

Just how important and effective are these chemicals?  Some researches suggest that they don’t even help with preventing fires, they only increase the amount of visible smoke.  It’s inhaling smoke that leads to chronic lung disease in firefighters.  Questions about the chemicals’ effectiveness and health concerns have led to the proposal of amendments to Technical Bulletin 117.  These amendments would allow furniture manufactures to opt for a flame retardant other than pBDEs.  It is imperative that you put the health of the American people first and pass these amendments.  We don’t need chemicals in our furniture that could be harming us, especially if they don’t even work.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Will Go Here]

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