Take Action to Control Flame Retardant Pollution

Jun 12, 2012

Furniture and other consumer products in California are being doused in toxic flame retardant chemicals—but it’s not providing real protection from deadly fires. Instead California residents are absorbing these cancer-causing chemicals into our bodies, while huge quantities are washed into waterways where they threaten marine life.

Please take action to reduce the harm of toxic flame retardants to our waterways, wildlife and public health. Click here to sign Baykeeper’s petition urging Governor Brown to control California’s flame retardant pollution.

Baykeeper’s petition asks Governor Brown to instruct the state oversight agency to use proposed federal standards that are geared to achieve greater fire safety without requiring the overuse of dangerous or untested chemicals in our households.

Flame retardant chemicals migrate from furniture and other products into household dust. Toddlers have higher levels of these chemicals in their bodies than adults because they play on the floor, put things in their mouths and ingest more dust. But we’re all exposed. Dust carries these chemicals into our waterways—including San Francisco Bay—and into our food supply and our bodies.

Scientific studies link brominated flame retardants (which are similar to the infamous and long-banned PCBs) to health problems that include cancer, endocrine disruption, thyroid harm, neurological impairments and reproductive problems. When pregnant women are exposed to these chemicals, their children may later have problems that include memory impairment and delayed sexual development.

Wildlife in San Francisco Bay also feel the impact of flame retardants. Top predator marine mammals like sea lions and predator birds such as peregrine falcons have the highest levels of the most common flame retardants, called PBDEs (or polybrominated diesthers).

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission studies have shown that California’s standard provides no meaningful protection from deadly fires. And when applied to furniture in large amounts to meet California’s current standards, the chemicals actually increase the release of two gases that are responsible for 60-80 percent of fire deaths. (Read more about how flame retardants might create deadlier fires.)

Regulations requiring the use of flame retardant chemicals in furniture arose when the media publicized stories about smoldering cigarettes causing deadly house fires. Instead of producing fire-safe cigarettes, the tobacco industry launched a campaign in support of flame retardant furniture. The chemical industry continues to benefit from this campaign today. (Read the recent Chicago Time exposé of the tobacco industry’s role in flame retardant regulations.)

California residents and wildlife need protection from these dangerous chemicals. Click here to sign the petition to control flame retardant pollution in California.

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