A variety of flame retardants, most of which have not been tested for long term effects on human health, are hidden in the household furniture we use daily. Unfortunately when California authorities required in 1975 from furniture manufacturers to meet flammability standards Technical Bulletin 117(TB117) , they couldn’t predict that certain flame retardant chemicals also had the tendency to accumulate in the human body and persist in the environment when released from furniture, textiles, computers, televisions and mattresses that we use.
Despite EPA’s efforts to take regulatory actions on flame retardant chemicals in both our new and existing chemicals programs under TSCA over the last years and facilitate voluntary commitments to cease production of some of these chemicals, thanks to California Gov. Jerry Brown that a revolutionary law was adopted on September 30, 2014. The Governor signed a state law that requires labeling on upholstered furniture containing flame-retardant chemicals to inform shoppers whether it contains toxic flame retardant chemicals, beginning January 1, 2015.
According to new studies conducted by Heather Stapleton, an environmental chemist at Duke University, and other researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Boston University:
“More furniture appears to be treated with flame retardants today than 15 years ago.”
This new labeling requirement is only mandatory for furniture sold in California, but taking into account the extensive size of California’s market, environmental and health activists hope that many manufacturers will use the same labels for their furniture across the U.S.
The implementation of this new Legislation will enable California consumers to exercise an informed choice and buy upholstered and reupholstered furniture products that are safer for themselves and their families. They will know whether the products they are purchasing have added flame retardant chemicals or not before they buy them.
Veena Singla, a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, supports this opinion and believes that this regulation will also have a positive outcome for businesses which now have the opportunity to respond to market signals and consumer demand. These new rules give them the choice to avoid buying and using expensive chemicals in their furniture.
At the same time, flame retardant –free products will also keep our firefighters safer, concerning compliance with fire safety standards. Experts believe that these chemicals not only are not needed to make furniture fire safe, but in fact, they can create more toxic smoke when furniture is burning that endangers the health of firefighters.