We think of our homes as safe sanctuaries. Sometimes, however, in an effort to increase safety, we can inadvertently introduce health hazards. In 1975, the state of California issued regulations requiring makers of upholstered furniture to reduce its flammability. The result was that manufacturers began adding flame retardant chemicals in large quantities.
Compounds like tris and PBDEs are no longer used in manufacturing, but they are still present in older furniture throughout the country. What effects might they have on our health? Are newer compounds safer?
Scientists behind the recent study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology discuss their findings that 85% of the couches studied contained chemical flame retardants. Does the benefit of these agents justify the potential harm? Or could your comfy couch constitute a health hazard?
Guests: Arlene Blum, PhD, is founder and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. She is a biophysical chemist and a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, Department of Chemistry. Her books on the topic of mountain climbing include: Annapurna: A Woman’s Place and Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life. The photo is of Dr. Blum.
Frequently Asked Questions (How do I know if my furniture has flame retardants? How can I reduce my family’s exposure to flame retardants?)
How to Reduce Toxics in Your Home handout
How to Buy Flame Retardant Free Furniture handout
More information and resources for consumers
Heather Stapleton, PhD, is associate professor of environmental chemistry in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.
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