According to a story in USA Today, Duke University-led researchers claim that more than half of the couches in the U.S. contain potentially toxic flame retardant materials.
The levels of toxicity astound. Here’s the breakdown from the USA Today story:
“Of 102 couches tested, 41% had foam with chlorinated Tris, a probable human carcinogen removed from baby pajamas in 1977, and 17% contained the chemical pentaBDE, now globally banned, according to the peer-reviewed study in Environmental Science & Technology. Most, 85%, were treated with some kind of untested or potentially toxic flame retardant.
‘The levels are enormous … People have a pound of these toxic chemicals in their couches,’ says co-author Arlene Blum, a chemist at the University of California-Berkeley and founder of the Green Science Policy Institute, which studies chemicals in consumer products. She says flame retardants account for up to 11% of the foam’s weight and were most common in sofas five years old or less; 94% contained them.”
The researchers claim that both animal and human testing show links between these retardants and cancer, hormonal issues, and neurological toxicity. Evidence also exists showing that unborn babies suffer a host of serious issues from these chemicals.
The American Chemistry Council disagrees with these findings, saying that the retardants are an effective way to fight fires. But the Consumer Product Safety Commission says that the retardants cause couches to burn faster.
Manufacturers are not required to make sure the chemicals they use in consumer products are safe, but a movement in California is looking to change that. In the mean time, stick with cotton fillings, down, polyester, or wool, as these materials usually lack the toxic flame retardant chemicals.