Flame Retardants

Flame retardant chemicals are added to a wide range of consumer products, including furniture, nap mats, baby products and dozens of other everyday items. Chemical companies say their flame retardants make our products safer, but in truth many uses of flame retardant chemicals do not protect us from fires.

Many flame retardants are linked with serious health problems including cancer, reduced IQ, developmental delays, obesity, and reproductive difficulties. These effects are shocking, especially when you consider that flame retardant chemicals continually migrate out of products and into dust where they are frequently inhaled or ingested by people and pets.  Flame retardant chemicals have been found in ninety-seven percent of all Americans tested.

How did harmful flame retardant chemicals become so widespread?  It’s a long and disturbing story.

In the 1970’s, the tobacco industry faced pressures from regulators who were pressing them to make fire-safe (self-extinguishing) cigarettes, to reduce the threat of house fires caused by smokers. To avoid regulation, they joined with the makers of flame retardant chemicals to distort science.  And it worked:  the chemical industry convinced government officials that we should douse our furniture with chemicals instead of making safer cigarettes.

The result?  Rather than making safer products, industry created furniture flammability standards that created a permanent market for their flame retardant chemicals. By stoking the flames of fear, the chemical companies made hundreds of millions of dollars and ensured a steady demand for their toxic products across the nation. Now nearly forty years later, toxic flame retardant chemicals are widespread in furniture, baby and child-care products, in many other items that contain polyurethane foam, and in building products.

And that’s how these chemicals ended up in the bodies of our family members.

Learn more about flame retardants at killercouch.ceh.org.