Toxic Flame Retardants
In less than a decade, Safer States and its partners have almost entirely eliminated the use of toxic flame retardants in furniture and baby products. Working hand-in-hand with state legislatures, firefighters, manufacturers, and media, we have cause a massive market shift that has reduced our exposures to these deadly chemicals.
49 adopted policies in 16 states
- Current Policies
- Adopted Policies
What Are They?
Flame Retardants are a class of chemicals added to furniture, electronics, and building materials intended to help prevent fires. Despite the claims of the chemical industry, many of them are unnecessary, don’t work well, and are poisonous. Flame Retardants have been shown to cause neurological damage, hormone disruption, and cancer. One of the biggest dangers of some flame retardants is that they bioaccumulate in humans, causing long-term chronic health problems as bodies contain higher and higher levels of these toxic chemicals.
Firefighters are at the forefront of advocating for their disuse due to high exposure to flame retardants and resultant health problems. The number one killer of firefighters is cancer due to chemical exposure faced in the line of duty.
We Eat Them
Since flame retardants aren’t chemically bound to products, they off-gas and settle on our food and bodies. Small children, especially susceptible to toxic health impacts, are exposed at particularly high rates as they explore with their hands and mouths.
We Drink Them
Flame retardants are persistent pollutants, which means they do not break down once released into an environment. They can travel far from the point of origin, allowing them to contaminate drinking water.
We Breathe Them
We all breathe dust everyday, and when that dust contains flame retardants, the chemicals enter our systems. During fires, flame retardants and their combustion byproducts are released causing toxic smoke clouds that poses health risks for firefighters.
What More is Needed
Toxic flame retardants are also found in electronic casings, with some televisions containing 30% of flame retardants by weight! In 2021, New York became the first state in the nation to restrict organohalogen flame retardants in electronic casings and the state of Washington is considering a similar ban under its Safer Products for Washington law. These policies mirror actions in the European Union which enacted a similar ban in 2019 that went into effect in 2021. We need more states to continue this trend.
Retailers are also beginning to take action. In 2022, Best Buy announced a restriction on organohalogen flame retardants in its exclusive brand televisions making it the first major North American retailer to stop using these harmful chemicals in its private-label televisions.
In the building materials world, all foam plastic insulation sold in the U.S contain flame retardants to meet building codes. This is one of the leading uses of flame retardants, most of which are harmful to health and do not provide a fire safety benefit. State codes must change to no longer require the use of toxic flame retardants in the many cases where fire safety is attainable without chemicals.
Federal agencies have a role to play too. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, lauded for issuing a guidance warning electronics manufacturers and retailers to "eliminate the use" of halogenated flame retardants in plastic casings, must now make a rule to ensure these harmful chemicals are not used in our everyday products.