Monday, February 8, 2016

New Calif rule would get toxins out of our couches

Flammability testing would change, and flame retardants in furniture's foam innards would no longer be needed, experts say.

New Calif rule would get toxins out of our couches


For four decades, the state of California has been affecting what chemicals are put in our couches.

Their flammability standards required dosings with flame retardants, and since manufacturers by and large don’t like to make different products for different states, everyone got the flame retardants.

Nice idea, keeping couches from burning. Except that “exposure to toxic flame retardants has been linked to real and measurable health impacts,” writes Sarah Janssen of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental advocacy group.

“Women with higher levels of flame retardants in their blood take longer to get pregnant and have smaller babies. Children exposed in the womb have a lower IQ and attention problems. Other studies have linked flame retardants to male infertility, male birth defects and early puberty in girls. A recent study in animals has linked toxic flame retardants to autism,” she wrote.

And there’s significant evidence that the chemicals don’t even work as intended. (Here's the NRDC site on flame reetardants.)

Yesterday, California released a new draft flammability standard that would not require toxic chemicals.

In the past, flammability was measured through a flame test on foam. But most furniture fires, by far, are caused by someone falling asleep with a lit cigarette, and the couch fabric catches fire, officials say.

So the new standard would institute a smolder test instead.

And whatever changes are required for furniture sold in California would likely be replicated elsewhere.

"With this new standard, families will be able to buy furniture and other products without these harmful chemicals, since smart companies will start making products that are fire-safe and do not use toxic flame retardants," said Michael Green, executive director of the Center for Environmental Health, a California-based nonprofit that had pushed for new standards.

"We welcome this proposal and urge the state to move forward quickly so suppliers can offer safer products as soon as possible," he said.

Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog
Our panel of experts, in partnership with My MilkCrate, will offer information on how to live sustainably and reduce your carbon footprint. We'll be featuring sustainable businesses, steering you toward green local events, and catching up with Philadelphians who we consider green-living gurus.

My MilkCrate is an innovative lifestyle tool -- available for free for iOS and Android -- which connects consumers to hundreds of local sustainable options in dining, shopping, transit, and more. The tool also allows you to seamlessly take sustainable action inside the app, discover nearby community events and eventually track your spending in the local economy. Follow them on social media @MYMILKCRATEAPP.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
Latest Health Videos
Also on
letter icon Newsletter