Toxic Chemicals in Furniture and Other Consumer Products: Prominent Scientists Raise Concerns About Toxic Flame Retardants

Oct 28, 2010, 09:15 ET from Environmental Health Fund

SAN ANTONIO, Oct. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 145 prominent scientists from 22 countries signed a first-ever consensus statement documenting health hazards from flame retardant chemicals found at high levels in home furniture, electronics, insulation, and other products.  The San Antonio Statement on Brominated and Chlorinated Flame Retardants, documents how this pervasive class of chemicals is likely to cause serious health harm and limited fire safety benefit, and posted on line today by Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP).  

Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and Dr. Ake Bergman, Stockholm University, wrote an editorial for EHP: "Adequate toxicity information is lacking but data indicate that the group contains compounds that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, reproductive and developmental toxicants, neurotoxicants, and endocrine disruptors."

"Regarding flame retardants in our couches, their over-all benefit in reducing fire deaths has not been proven.  The retardants can burn in seconds, and increase fire toxicity and hazard, " said Arlene Blum, PHD, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "They are used at high levels because of an outdated California flammability standard called Technical Bulletin 117. We can have improved fire safety without toxicity. It's time to change this obsolete policy."

"This provides a clear summary of scientific concerns about this class of substances," said Joe DiGangi, PhD International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN). "We need to translate this scientific consensus into regulatory actions that protect human health and the environment in all countries."

"Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants escape from consumer products into the environment and become intruders in people's blood, breast milk, and tissues. They cross the placenta, entering the uniquely vulnerable fetus. Some impair brain development, with permanent adverse effects on learning and behavior. Some interfere with sexual development.  Some are likely to cause cancer. Existing laws do not give our government the authority to protect us from such chemicals, even when we know they are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic," explains Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, with Science & Environmental Health Network.

While a global ban on some brominated flame retardants is proceeding under the Stockholm Convention, manufacturers are replacing them with related flame retardant chemicals that may be just as harmful.  The San Antonio Statement supports development of safer alternative chemicals and innovative changes in the design of products to achieve fire safety.

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SOURCE Environmental Health Fund