Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Flame retardants under scrutiny

EPA yields to public outcry over research identifying health concerns over the toxic chemicals
Children are especially at risk from exposure to
flame retardants in furniture and other products.

When major news outlets like the Chicago Tribune published in-depth reports about the questionable record of flame retardants, it spawned a huge reaction from the public and lawmakers demanding more information and possibly action.

Now the United States Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it will conduct a broad investigation of the chemicals that are used in a wide range of household products, including upholstered furniture (one sofa can contain up to 2 pounds of flame retardants in the foam cushions) and baby products such as mattresses and pajamas.

The paper’s article series outlined a campaign by tobacco and chemical industries to promote flame retardants by utilizing the public’s fear of fires, distorted science and phony associations.

The problems with flame retardants

However, recent research has shown that flame retardants don’t really protect from fires and that exposure to the chemicals can lead to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and fertility problems.

Experts partly blame the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act from 1976, which allows companies to introduce new products without having to prove that they are safe and which makes it difficult to ban certain substances after they have been shown to affect people’s health.

The EPA’s investigation will target a larger group of flame retardants that has been linked to the most health problems.

Instead of putting flame retardants in the furniture itself, new industry standards may involve the upholstery itself to resist smoldering cigarettes, one of the most common causes of fires in homes.

Exposure to flame retardants

Studies show that flame retardant chemicals have become widespread and can often be detected in common household dust, which is inhaled, ingested and touched by all household members, especially children.

Even small doses may trigger obesity, anxiety and developmental problems, studies have found.

Source: Chicago Tribune

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