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When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, new regulations kick into effect that may help usher in an era of less pervasive flame retardants in our home furnishings. The move caps a years-long campaign to alter regulations inextricably linked with a tobacco industry that sought to elude production of self-extinguishing cigarettes designed to limit couch fires. Deception and intrigue led to a 1970s regulation that prompted the injection of chemicals into home furniture, stemming from a distortion of scientific findings that suggested flame retardants would be more effective at reducing sofa fires than they really are. In reality, retardants provide no meaningful protection, a finding uncovered in a 2012 investigative series by The Chicago Tribune and highlighted in a recent documentary Toxic Hot Seat…

Dina Fine Maron