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Toxic Flame Retardants Don’t Even Work As Advertised

CNN aired this excellent report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the safety of chemical flame retardants. It chronicles the chemical industry’s nefarious tactics to defeat state legislation that would keep these toxic chemicals out of our homes.

One of the more shocking parts of the piece is video footage of two chairs on fire at about the 3:06 mark in the video.  One is treated with flame retardant chemicals and one isn’t. As the video shows, the chemical flame retardants don’t slow the spread of fire as both chairs are engulfed in flames within minutes. This evidence is important as it debunks one of the main arguments of the chemical industry: toxic flame retardants in foam products save lives by preventing fires.

Dr. Andrew McGuire, a fire expert, explains that it’s not the chemicals in the foam that retard fire but rather the fabric covering the foam cushions that needs to be flame resistant. And the Consumer Product Safety Commission agrees. The agency has put together new flammability standards for furniture that won’t require chemical flame retardants and that rely on inherently flame resistant fabric, which is already used in nearly all furniture in the US.

That chemical flame retardants are necessary to prevent fires has been one of the favorite arguments of the chemical makers. And why not? It’s an easy and effective message to tell state legislators: if this state passes a law to ban these chemicals, more children will die in fires. Who wants to vote for a bill that will hurt kids? Not us and not many legislators.

But as the footage shows and Dr. McGuire confirms, the chemical industry claims just aren’t true. So, if toxic flame retardants don’t work as advertised and we know they aren’t good for our health, why are they allowed in products we use in our homes?

The answer is that the chemical makers have spent a lot of money spinning a tale to policymakers and consumers that toxic flame retardants are necessary. But they just aren’t. (You might remember the infamous chemical industry front group, Citizens For Fire Safety, and their paid expert Seattle burn physician, Dr. David Heimbach.)

This is why we need to stand up to the chemical industry, pass the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act, keep passing laws that restrict the use of toxic flame retardants, and get these harmful chemicals out of our homes.