This week, New York Senator Chuck Schumer introduced a new bill, The Children and Firefighter Protection Act, to ban the ten most notoriously toxic flame retardant chemicals in upholstered furniture and children’s products, and to set up a process to examine and regulate other similar chemicals.
While states have taken action on some of the worst toxic flame retardants, and some forward thinking companies have begun to rid their supply chains of these chemicals, America’s families need more protection from these ubiquitous hazards. Senator Schumer’s bill represents decisive action to get cancer out of our living rooms and playrooms.
Most people don’t think of their couch as a dangerous place. Sure, we might worry that we’re spending too much time on it that we should spend exercising. You might even worry that you spent a lot of money on a nice piece of furniture, only to have your cat use it for a scratching post.
Here’s a bigger danger.
Scientists tell us that couches across the U.S. contain high levels of toxic chemicals. In fact, 85% of couches tested in a Duke University study contained toxic or untested flame-retardants. And the newer the couch, the more likely they were to contain toxic chemicals. The use of flame-retardants has increased over the years and now more than 94% of new couches contain one or more of these toxic chemicals.
We’re learning more and more about the links between exposure to toxic flame retardants and a variety of health concerns like cancer, hormone-disruption, and harm to the developing brain. What’s worse is many of these chemicals are persistent, meaning they stay in our bodies and the environment.
We’ve also learned that firefighters, who are exposed to the burned treated foam as they respond to fires, are at higher risk for cancers and other serious health effects.
These chemicals aren’t just in our living rooms. They’re also found in our children’s rooms – in nap mats, in children’s furniture with kid friendly images like Elmo and Mickey Mouse.
But here’s the good news.
States are taking action to reduce our exposures to these toxics. Since 2003, legislatures in twelve states have taken action to ban some of these chemicals. Just last month, the California legislature voted to require labels on furniture containing flame retardants.
This summer, health care giant Kaiser Permanente announced that it will effectively ban chemical flame retardants from the furniture it buys for its hundreds of facilities across the country, putting its $30 million in annual purchasing power for furniture behind its health and safety commitments.
States like New York, Maine and California are taking the lead, and companies like Kaiser are leading the industry, but it will take a lot more to get these chemicals out of our homes.
Senator Schumer’s bill will ban ten toxic flame retardants in upholstered furniture and children’s products, and will set up a process to examine and take action on the host of others in the marketplace.
With his leadership, we can curl up on the couch more comfortably in the future. In the meantime, I hope you’ll get off your couch and get on the phone—urge your senators to support Senator Schumer’s bill to ban toxic flame retardants.