August 19, 2007

fire retardants in furniture

I got an email from MomsRising regarding dangerous chemicals used in furniture. It intrigued me because that is one area I have not even begun to research. I know furniture has many toxic aspects, but was kind of scared to find out what exactly. I also wasn't sure there were alternatives available and as a result felt a bit hopeless about it.

MomsRising is giving hope. They have great information and a plan to help set safer standards for furniture. Of course, signing their petition would be a good thing. It specifically is asking the Governor of California to support a bill which would help make furniture safer.

From Mom's Rising:

"California furniture manufacturers are required to use potentially toxic chemicals which are bad for children, and are being found in the milk of breastfeeding mothers--the very same chemicals that were removed from children's sleepwear thirty years ago! All this in the name of fire retardancy which can be achieved without toxic chemicals. Now the chemical industry wants to put similar chemicals in bedding and pillows as well.

Assembly member Mark Leno explains, "These toxic chemicals have been shown to cause cancer, reproductive problems, learning disabilities, and thyroid disease in laboratory animals and house cats. At the same time, these chemicals are climbing the food chain in increasing concentrations and are found in fish, harbor seals in San Francisco Bay, polar bears, bird eggs, and the animal at the very top of the food chain - breast-fed human babies."

• The chemical Chlorinated Tris was removed from children's sleepwear 30 years ago after it was determined to be a mutagen.

• Today, chlorinated tris is the second most-used fire retardant in furniture, and was recently deemed by the consumer product safety commission to be "a probable human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence in animals."

• Since the 1970s, PBDEs (brominated fire retardants) have increased 40-fold in human breast milk. PBDEs have the potential to disrupt thyroid hormone balance and contribute to a variety of neurological and developmental deficits, including low intelligence and learning disabilities. Women in North America have, on average, ten times to forty times the levels PBDEs in their breast milk as do women in Europe or Asia.

• We can prevent fires without poisoning our families. Equally effective and affordable methods are available right now. Alternatives include naturally flame resistant materials like wool, metals, and woods, inherently flame resistant barriers, and alternatives including silicon, boric acid, and phosphates.

Yikes! I'm sure our house is full of horrible furniture-chemicals. I guess I'll start with the petition and then see what I can learn about what to do with what you already have, etc. I'll try not to get overwhelmed (I'm not about to run out and buy new furniture or anything) but I do like knowing what to look out for and where.


Debbie said...

PBDE...that's the bad chemical used in mattresses, too, that I couldn't remember the name of. I found this little resource:

Thanks for jogging my memory once again! Now I can start my mattress research in earnest. If anyone knows of a good idea/brand for a twin mattress (for a child), I'd love to hear it! Not too pricey but safe for kids, etc...

Gift of Green said...

Really? We can't go out and buy new furniture? Are you sure? ;)