“Hard to believe, 35 years after our research contributed to removing Tris from children’s sleepwear, our current study suggests that more than a third of Americans’ couches contain the same toxic flame retardant,” study co-author Dr. Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute, said in a UC Berkeley news release. “And sadly enough, many Americans could now have increased cancer risks from the Tris in their furniture.”
The Berkeley-based institute provides unbiased scientific data to government, industry and nongovernmental organizations.
In related news, another study published the same day found that most homes have levels of flame retardants that are above federal health guidelines. The study was conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts-based Silent Spring Institute, which identifies links between chemicals and women’s health, especially breast cancer.
“Our study of flame retardants in homes found two different cancer-causing Tris flame retardants in the dust inside all of the homes we studied,” study first author Robin Dodson said in the news release.
In a statement, a group representing furniture makers said the industry has been caught between legislative demands to make products both fire-resistant and at the same time free of hazardous chemicals.
“In 1978, the industry established the Upholstered Furniture Action Council (UFAC) and released voluntary upholstery construction guidelines that . . . combine to make an upholstered piece resistant to ignition by a smoldering cigarette,” the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) said in the statement. And, it added, “over the past 25 years, the incidence of household fires involving upholstered furniture in the United States has been reduced by more than 85 percent.”
However, part of that success has been based on the incorporation of flame-retardant chemicals in upholstery, AHFA said.
“Throughout nearly four decades of debate over how best to reduce the number of residential fires that involve upholstered furniture, AHFA has steadfastly maintained the position that product modifications should be made only as they are proven safe, effective and affordable for the greatest number of consumers,” the group said in the statement.