If flame-retardant chemicals worked, they would probably have no stronger supporters than firefighters. Yet, they are among their strongest opponents. It is not only that the chemicals are ineffective, but they are highly toxic.
Charging into a burning home is dangerous enough, but entering a home with burning flame-retardant chemicals is worse.
An object treated with flame-retardant chemicals can catch fire, and when it does, it will give off higher levels of toxic CO (carbon monoxide), soot and smoke than an untreated object.
California female firefighters aged 40 to 50 are 6X more likely to develop breast cancer than the national average.
The Big Q: Why California?
The Big A: It is because in Y 1975 California Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) was passed.
It required all furniture sold in California to withstand a 12-sec exposure to a small flame without igniting, a requirement manufacturers met by “dousing” furniture in flame retardant chemicals
Firefighters, both men and women, also have higher rates of cancer, in part because of the high levels of dioxins and furans they are exposed to when flame-retardant chemicals burn.
Flame retardants are so widely used that it is very difficult to avoid them completely.
But, there are steps easily taken to reduce your exposure, including the tips below from the Green Science Policy Institute, as follows:
- Avoid upholstered furniture with the TB117 label. If the label states,”This article meets the flammability requirements of California Bureau of Home Furnishings Technical Bulletin 117 … ” it most likely contains flame retardants. However, even upholstered furniture that is unlabeled may contain flame retardants.
- Furniture products filled with cotton, wool or polyester tend to be safer than chemical-treated foam; some products also state that they are “flame-retardant free.” Organic wool (100%) is naturally flame-resistant.
- Avoid baby products with foam: Nursing pillows, high chairs, strollers and other products containing polyurethane foam most likely contain flame retardants.
- Avoid foam carpet padding: If possible, minimize the use of foam carpet padding, which often contains flame retardants. If removing carpeting, take precautions to avoid exposures. Isolate your work area from the rest of your house to avoid spreading it around, and use a HEPA filter vacuum to clean up.
- PBDEs are often found in household dust, so clean up with a HEPA-filter vacuum and/or a wet mop often.
Be especially careful with polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to Y 2005, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses and pillows, as these are most likely to contain PBDEs.
If you have any of these in your home, inspect them carefully and replace ripped covers and/or any foam that appears to be breaking down. Also avoid reupholstering furniture by yourself as the reupholstering process increases the risk of exposure.
Note: As the health risks of these toxic chemicals become increasingly known, the chemical industry continue to fight for their continued use. Nuts.
Again, flame retardant treated furniture just delays the fire by a few seconds, while releasing significantly higher amounts of smoke, carbon monoxide and cancer-causing fumes.
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