Olympia, WA — Most children’s furniture contains toxic flame retardant chemicals linked to serious health problems, according to a new study released by the Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC). Environmental health advocates, firefighters, faith leaders and developmental disabilities advocates are urging state legislators to pass the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act (ESHB 1294), a bill that would phase out the use of toxic flame retardants in children’s products and furniture and move product manufacturers to safer alternatives.
“Knowing what we know about the impacts of these toxic flame retardants on our communities, why would we continue to allow them to be sold in our state? This is a public health issue,” said Erika Schreder, Science Director for the Washington Toxics Coalition.
Major findings of the report include:
- 90% of the children’s furniture contained flame retardants linked to serious health problems.
Out of 42 pieces of children’s furniture purchased from large retailers in 13 states and Canada, all but four contained toxic flame retardants.
- One or more chlorinated Tris flame retardants (TDCPP and TCPP) were present in 16 products.
These compounds have been linked to cancer, effects on fertility, and genetic damage.
- Firemaster 550 (or an equivalent flame retardant) was found in 22 products. Firemaster 550 is a mixture of chemicals that are largely untested, but laboratory tests have linked them to obesity, hormone disruption and anxiety.
- Independent tests like these have previously found toxic flame retardants in other children’s items, including changing pads, car seats, and nap mats. Manufacturers appear to be moving toward greater use of Firemaster 550 and TCPP, two flame retardant products with limited health tests, but growing evidence of toxicity.
With the changes in flame retardant usage, state government oversight is critical to evaluate the safety of the compounds and restrict the use of flame retardants that are found to harm health.
“As a parent, a grandparent and someone who cares about the health and safety of everyone in my community, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to send a strong bill to the Governor this year. Our very health depends on it,” said Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34), prime sponsor of the original Senate legislation, weakened in committee in the 2013 legislative session.
Children, families and pets are exposed to toxic flame retardants when they escape from household items and contaminate house dust and indoor air. Recent evidence also shows higher levels of certain flame retardants in firefighters who face increased risk of cancer and other diseases due to their exposure to chemicals on the job. And, new information uncovered by a 2012 Chicago Tribune series Playing with Fire demonstrates the use of these chemicals in furniture foam does not provide a fire safety benefit.
“Every time we go to a working fire we are in contact with toxic flame-retardants and expose ourselves to a greater risk of cancer. The danger doesn’t stop there though. The toxics remain on our fire gear and on our skin. When we go home, we are further exposed to these chemicals in household items, where they degrade and place our families and us at further risk. This is why the Washington State Council of Firefighters strongly supports the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act, “commented Kelly Fox, President of the Washington State Council of Firefighters.
Some recent action has taken place in Washington state. The Washington State Department of Ecology recently added chlorinated Tris to the state’s list of Chemicals of High Concern to Children, triggering reporting requirements for children’s product manufacturers. Last year, the Washington State House of Representatives passed a comprehensive ban on harmful flame retardants in children’s products and furniture (ESHB 1294). The Senate however, passed a dramatically weaker version of the bill.
“WSNA is concerned by the increase in learning, memory and neurobehavioral disorders, reproductive problems, asthma and cancers linked to these toxic chemicals. We know furniture and children’s products can meet fire safety standards by using safer alternatives,” remarked Karen R. Bowman, MN, RN, COHN-S, Washington State Nurses Association Environmental Health Specialist.
“The Arc of Washington State is firmly in support of the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act, which will ban toxic flame retardants in furniture and children’s products,” said Diana Stadden, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for The Arc of Washington State. “According to the U.S. National Research Council, 3% of developmental disabilities are a direct result of exposure to toxic chemicals. Children are exposed to chemicals from a variety of sources, but those sources shouldn’t include the furniture in their homes”