Toxic Flame Retardants

Toxic flame retardants are one of the most common sources of toxicity in our homes and our lives. They are used on everything from computer casings, to furniture, to carpeting, to children's products. "The problem is, they don't stay put," says Rebecca Williams, a reporter for The Environment Report. "They leach out of products and they get into us."

Health concerns surrounding these chemicals—including everything from cancer to thyroid issues to reproductive harm—are serious enough that many groups including fire professionals are interested in getting toxic flame retardants out of our daily lives.

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Toxics Bills Across the Country: The March is On!

Feb 26, 2013    Bookmark and Share

Children put everything in their mouths--including products that may contain toxic chemicals.

Last month, we let the world know that states aren't waiting for Congress to act when it comes to toxic chemicals—at least 26 of them will be introducing bills to make their residents safer. And the country has taken notice! The story of the state fight was read across the country, with everyone wondering how they could help their state step up and join the fight.

And now, these states aren't just considering toxics legislation—they're moving it through their state capitols! As legislative sessions get further underway, bills banning toxic chemicals are being introduced from Alaska to West Virginia!

As we mentioned in a recent post, the dangers of toxic flame retardants are a big concern, and bills have been introduced in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington—and more are sure to come as the sessions continue!

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Flame Retardant Debates Heat Up in the States

Feb 21, 2013    Bookmark and Share

Another kids' product is found to have cancer-causing chemicals.

Toxic flame retardant chemicals are present in many everyday products.

As state legislatures start their 2013 legislation session, a major focus is the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals in products we use in our homes. Over the last few years, these chemicals have received increased scrutiny from health advocates, the fire safety community, and policymakers. The time to take action on these chemicals has hopefully arrived.

There are many reasons for this:

They contribute to negative health effects. These health issues include cancer, problems with thyroid levels leading to developmental and metabolic issues in fetuses and children, lower quality sperm in men, lower IQ in children, and lowered fertility in women.

They are everywhere. Toxic flame retardants are used in many of our everyday products including computer casings, furniture, foam products, carpeting, and children's products. They are found in dust build-up in our homes, and in our bodies as we inhale or ingest them.

This week, a report was released by the Center for Environmental Health that found high levels of chlorinated Tris, a toxic flame retardant chemical, in nap mats that are sold to daycares nationwide, and in other children's products sold at Walmart, Target and Babies R Us. Tris is a carcinogen that was removed from children's sleepwear in 1979, but is still found in polyeurethane foam used in children's products.

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New Study Confirms Toxic Chemicals in Couches

Nov 29, 2012    Bookmark and Share

85% of our couches contain toxic or untested flame retardants We here at Safer States have long been concerned about the toxic chemicals hidden throughout our homes. And now a recent study shows that they're right under our bottoms! A group of researchers, led by Duke University, found that 85% of our couches contain toxic or untested flame retardants—often whether or not they were labelled as such. It's a pretty chilling number. And people are taking note.

People are talking about the study at the state level, across the border into Canada, and in the science press and national outlets like USA Today, CBS and Fox News.

Thanks to our friends who have done the scientific research, making sure these hidden dangers remain hidden no more.

And now onto action! While we wait for a federal solution, states like Washington are stepping up, introducing legislation to ban toxic chemicals like chlorinated Tris, one of the worst toxic flame retardant chemicals. Let's hope they join other trailblazing states like New York, which passed Tris-banning legislation last year.

Here's to healthy couches (and healthy lives)! Will your state be next?

Scrutiny of toxic flame retardants gaining traction

Jul 19, 2012    Bookmark and Share

Chemical flame retardants are receiving much needed scrutiny across the country and, hopefully soon, in Congress too.

One of the reasons that toxic chemicals are so pervasive is because they've been able to work their way into our homes under the radar. Our cans of tomatoes don't list BPA in their ingredients, our crib mattresses don't advertise that they're stuffed with carcinogens, and our lipsticks aren't named "luscious lead."

It takes some digging by scientists, legislators and journalists to realize what's going on. But thankfully, they've been able to expose many of these dangers—especially when it comes to toxic flame retardants.

We've long been concerned with flame retardants. These chemicals claim to make us safer, but have been linked to all sorts of health concerns including cancer.

A recent series in the Chicago Tribune tracked the long practice of chemical industry deception when it comes to flame retardants, and how they've entered our homes even though they don't make us safer. This deception has played out in state legislatures across the country (check out our post). Now chemical flame retardants are receiving much needed scrutiny across the country and, hopefully soon, in Congress too.

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Chicago Tribune covers the chemical industry's dirty tricks

May 29, 2012    Bookmark and Share

Flame retardants are found in carpets, furniture and electronics in the home.

This month, the Chicago Tribune wrote an investigative series uncovering dirty tactics by the chemical industry that insiders have known for some time.

The series focuses on toxic flame retardants, and the methods used by industry to keep pumping millions of pounds of them into our household goods each year despite health risks and questionable effectiveness.

Flame retardants are found in all manner of household goods, including couches and other furniture, carpets and electronics.

Among other things, the Tribune investigation uncovered:

  • Completely fabricated stories used during testimony told in order to garner sympathy about threats to children from fire.
  • Grossly distorted findings about the effectiveness of flame retardants when it comes to retarding fire. "The fire just laughs at it," said the lead author of a study that is often cited as proof that fire retardants save lives.
  • Direct connections between the chemical industry lobby and the tobacco lobby.
  • A concerted effort by industry to knock down state laws one-by-one, as it is known that states are exercising more power than the federal government when it comes to banning toxic chemicals.

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28 states to consider toxic chemicals legislation in 2012

Jan 26, 2012    Bookmark and Share

With no action yet from Congress, state legislatures continue to work to protect citizens.

By Sarah Doll, National Director for Safer States.

With no action yet from Congress, state legislatures continue to work to protect citizens.

The past couple years have seen unprecedented changes in the toxic chemicals landscape across the United States. In the past nine years, over 80 chemical safety laws have been passed with an overwhelming margin of bi-partisan support in statehouses across the country.

 

But this is not a time to rest on our laurels. Across the country, families still come into contact with unregulated toxic chemicals. Every day, we are exposed to hundreds of different chemicals in our home and at our work—chemicals like formaldehyde and chlorinated Tris which are known carcinogens, and bisphenol-a (BPA) which contributes to health problems with reproductive development.

None of these chemicals are effectively regulated by the federal government: it is a widely held myth that manufacturers even have to prove a chemical's safety before introducing it into products we buy. They don't have to, and they won't often even disclose which chemicals make up their products. Instead, they hide behind the claim that the information is proprietary.

The hope for federal regulation is still that—just a hope; the law overseeing toxic chemical regulation is over 30 years old, and its overhaul is being buffeted by strong opposition from the industry trade association which is backed by billions of dollars of influence. So while Congress tries to figure out how to change the rules on the federal level, it is up to the states to fill the gap in protection.

The Safer States coalition, made up of groups of environmental advocates, physicians, nurses, parents, and concerned citizens, stands in support of laws and policies which will lighten the toxic chemical burden that our families, loved ones and community carry.

The fact that we have been able to consistently pass important laws during troubling economic times is encouraging. While much of the chemical industry would have us believe that such laws are anti-business and anti-profit, many other organizations see the writing on the wall: The way that chemicals get into everyday household goods and then into our homes is unsafe and dangerous.

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Report round-up: Toxic chemicals in hidden places

Jan 11, 2012    Bookmark and Share

 

Recent reports show that toxic chemicals are found in every corner of our lives.

 

Recent reports show that toxic chemicals are found in every corner of our lives. They are being found in everything from foam in children's products to household cleaners and canned foods. This month, we rounded up some of the most significant studies from our partner organizations. These studies outline the ubiquity of toxic chemicals, and point the way toward solutions.

Fortunately, not all the news is bad. It was discovered that some products don't contain the worst-of-the-worst toxic chemicals, proving that it is possible to create these products with safer alternatives.

And when The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics announced that Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo still contains a harmful, formaldehyde-releasing chemical, the pressure of the news caused Johnson & Johnson to finally agree to remove it. While getting a harmful chemical out of a baby shampoo shouldn't require such action, it is encouraging to see forward motion away from toxic chemicals in some situations.

Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States
Hidden Hazards in the Nursery (pdf)

Many nursery items contain toxic Tris flame retardants.

Hidden Hazards in the Nursery In a study released today by the Washington Toxics Coalition and SAFER states we learn that many foam products in children's nurseries contain high levels of toxic flame retardants. These chemicals are associated with health concerns such as lower birth weights, changes in thyroid hormone levels which affect critical metabolic functions, and lower IQ in children.

As we discussed on this site in September, the world of chemical flame retardants is an alphabet soup of names and chemical mixtures. As quickly as some chemicals are being banned, the chemical industry is creating new combinations which skirt the rules.

Washington Toxics Coalition in partnership with Safer States purchased foam-containing baby and children's items from major retailers in six states. They sent samples of the foam to a Duke University research laboratory for testing.

The study found:

  • Chlorinated Tris (TDCPP) was present in 16 of 20 products. TDCPP is the chemical that was voluntarily removed from children's pajamas in the 1970s because of health concerns.
  • The level of flame retardants in products was high. The 17 products that contained toxic flame retardants had an average of 3.9% by foam weight.
  • These flame retardants are not chemically bound to the foam, which means that they escape from the products and get into the air and household dust, endangering the health of all in the home.

The real key to banning toxic flame retardants is a comprehensive policy which identifies the worst-of-the-worst chemicals, and sets in place a plan for phase-out in favor of safer alternatives. The states have seen that using the laser-focus of an individual chemical ban hand-in-hand with sweeping comprehensive policy is the most effective way to reduce toxic exposure to adults and little ones alike. Several states will be taking up the charge of toxic flame retardants this year, following in the footsteps of states like New York, which banned TCEP, a toxic Tris flame retardant, in 2011.

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Toxic flame retardants: In our homes, our dust, our lives

Sep 22, 2011    Bookmark and Share

Toxic flame retardants are found in many household products including items found in your child's nursery.

Updated October 13, 2011

Toxic flame retardants are one of the most common sources of toxicity in our homes and our lives. They are used on everything from computer casings, to furniture, to carpeting, to children's products. "The problem is, they don't stay put," says Rebecca Williams, a reporter for The Environment Report1. "They leach out of products and they get into us."

Health concerns surrounding these chemicals—including everything from cancer to thyroid issues to reproductive harm—are serious enough that many groups including fire professionals are interested in getting toxic flame retardants out of our daily lives.

From a letter2 released by the International Association of Fire Fighters:

"Many studies involving fire fighters exposed to these and other toxic gases during active fire fighting, overhaul, and long term exposure from these chemicals penetrating protective gear, have found that fire fighters have a much greater risk of contracting cancer, heart and lung disease, and other debilitating diseases. While we support the concept of flame retardant chemicals, there are [safer] alternatives."

When we talk about toxic flame retardants on Safer States, we are referring to a whole group of chemicals that are used on household products for the purposes of slowing down combustion. Unlike some chemicals (cadmium, for example), the concern isn't with a specific single chemical. Instead, we reference a group of chemicals intended for a single purpose, nearly all of which have been shown to have harmful effects on children, fire fighters, fish and wildlife.

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States join together to get rid of the worst-of-the-worst chemicals

Apr 29, 2011    Bookmark and Share

 

Many of the world's water sources are contaminated with dangerous PBT chemicals.

 

Persistent, bioaccumulative toxics, commonly known as PBTs, are a group of toxic chemicals that are joined together by some common features. Common PBTs in our lives include mercury, DDT, cadmium, lead, and several groups of chemicals including PCBs, toxic flame retardants (PBDEs) and dioxins. While these chemicals have many different uses in our lives, and different effects on our health, they are joined together by the following facts:

  1. PBTs are persistent. These chemicals are often used in manufacturing because of the exact features that cause great, great trouble in our environment: they don't break down, and they stay in the environment for a very long time. PCBs, for instance, are man-made mixtures of chlorinated compounds that are used in manufacturing because they are non-flammable, have a high boiling point, and are insoluble in water: all features that make them very difficult to dispose of.
  2. PBTs are bioaccumulative. Once these chemicals are ingested by living creatures, they build up in fatty tissue, and move up the food chain as they are consumed by bigger creatures, eventually making their way into our diets.
  3. PBTs are toxic. These chemicals have been associated with all manner of health effects: mercury affects the nervous system of developing fetuses, chronic exposure to DDT affects the liver and kidneys among other parts of the body, cadmium has been labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable carcinogen, lead exposure in adults results in neurological effects like seizures, PCBs pose a cancer risk, PBDEs have been found to be endocrine disruptors, and dioxins cause reproductive and developmental problems.
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30 states working together to change a nation

Feb 1, 2011    Bookmark and Share

Last week, legislators and environmental health advocates in thirty states and Washington, DC announced that they will be introducing bills during their states' 2011 legislative sessions that will protect children and families from harmful toxic chemicals.

In January, legislators and environmental health advocates in thirty states and Washington, DC announced that they will be introducing bills during their states' 2011 legislative sessions that will protect children and families from harmful toxic chemicals.

The proposed policies run the gamut from comprehensive laws that will promote safer alternatives to toxic chemicals to those that will outlaw specific toxic chemicals including cadmium, bisphenol-A (BPA), and toxic flame retardants. Public support is behind more stringent toxic chemicals laws, and legislators are hearing the message. A study released in November 2010 in conjunction with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families shows that 18 states have passed 71 chemical safety laws in the last eight years by an overwhelming, bipartisan margin.

Sarah Doll, National Coordinator for Safer States, a network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations in states around the country, is looking forward to legislative action in 2011. "This is going to be an exciting year. States are poised to further protect people across the nation from the harms of toxic chemicals."

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