We Need Toxic-Free Fire Safety Now!

BY ON March 21, 2013

Picture of a small boy laying upside down on a yellow couch, maybe thinking about fire safety?

My couch contains a toxic flame retardant linked to cancer. Your couch probably does too. So, most likely, do your infant car seats, nursing pillows, and computers.

If you want to know why these chemicals are in our products, you need look no further than an outdated California state rule called TB 117. The decades-old rule created a flammability standard that is impossible to meet without the use of industrial flame retardant chemicals. These chemicals can migrate out of our furniture and other products into the dust that we inhale and eat. Flame retardants do not belong in the air in our houses — the air that our children breathe. Some have been linked to lower IQs in children, reduced fertility, and increased cancer risks. And to add insult to injury, they’re not working to prevent fires.

In fact, flame retardant chemicals added to furniture can make fires more deadly by increasing smoke and toxic gases, which are the major causes of fire deaths and injuries.

But all that could change. Last month, California released a draft updated flammability standard (TB117-2013) that gives companies better ways to provide fire safety–without the use of harmful flame retardant chemicals.

This is an important step to improve fire safety and protect our children, homes, workplaces, and communities from toxic flame retardant chemicals.

Manufacturers nationwide produce products to comply with the lucrative California market. That’s why this state standard affects the health and safety of our families in every state.

We need to show California regulators that moms and dads everywhere support a modern, scientific standard that puts our children’s and families’ health first.


TOPICS: California, Clean Air Rules and Regulations, Toxics

  • We just bought some hand-made Berber carpets in Morocco. The seller showed how natural fibers like camel hair and lambs wool are naturally flame-resistant – by holding a lighter to the carpets he was selling! Artificial fibers like polyester both catch fire more readily, and emit toxic fumes when burning. So consider natural fibers without additives over synthetics with added brominated glop. (Anybody know any furniture companies promoting this choice?)

  • Molly Rauch

    Hi Jim. I’ve heard that wool is the natural flame retardant — but I’ve never tried to light my wool rug on fire before! Some furniture companies do manufacture their items without chemical flame retardants. See some examples from Laura’s Rules, an excellent blog about environmental health: http://laurasrules.org/2012/04/28/sofa-saga-part-4-success-two-great-sources-for-truly-green-sofas/. Unfortunately most of these options are at high price points. The California statute that drives these manufacturing decisions is on its way to being helpfully revised. But we also need to change the federal policy that allows toxic and untested chemicals on our store shelves and in our homes. We need to reform the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act. See http://action.momscleanairforce.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1711&ea.campaign.id=17747 and thanks so much for reading!