Consumer Resources

FEATURED: Click here for our buyers’ guide to furniture without flame retardants.

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TEDx Wellesley College: Where have all the toxic chemicals gone?

Introduction

Flame retardant chemicals have been associated with a variety of human health issues, including hormone disruption, reduced fertility, and cancer. It is prudent to reduce our contact with such chemicals as much as we can.

This page contains information on what you can do at home and when you shop to reduce exposure to flame retardant chemicals, as well as policy changes that you can advocate for.

Be sure to sign up for our monthly electronic newsletter to stay up to date on the latest news and opportunities to take action.

Quick Tips

  • Avoid foam-filled products with a TB117 label.
  • Make sure to wash your hands frequently, and always before eating.
  • Keep dust levels down by damp dusting and wet mopping.
  • Vacuum regularly with a HEPA filter
  • Open windows to improve indoor air quality.

Furniture

The California furniture flammability standard changed on January 1, 2014, with mandatory compliance by January 1, 2015. Below we have included more information about flame retardants and furniture, including guidelines for buying flame retardant-free furniture.

Furniture Facts:

doesitcontainFRs

Buyers’ Guide:

FR free furniture

Shopping Tips:

  • Avoid products with a TB117 label
  • Look for products with a TB117-2013 label
  • Verify with the manufacturer that the product does not contain flame retardants

Children’s Products

As of January 2014, most children’s products are exempt from flammability standards in California. Soon, new products will likely be free of added flame retardants, but it is always important to verify before buying.

childrensproducts

When shopping for children’s products:

  • Avoid products with a TB117 label
  • Ask the retailer if the product contains flame retardants
  • Consider buying organic

Mattresses

Adult mattresses

According to the mattress industry, flame retardants are not used in foam in adult mattresses in the U.S. The federal mattress standard, called 16 CFR 1633, requires that the finished mattress meet a very severe and lengthy open flame ignition test. To meet this requirement, barrier materials such as fire-resistant fiber batting or boric acid treated cotton fiber are wrapped around the mattress foam.

Crib/Infant Mattresses

Baby mattresses with a TB117 label are likely to contain flame retardant chemicals and should be avoided. Mattresses produced after January 1, 2014 will not have such a label and are unlikely to contain the chemicals, but it is prudent to verify with the retailer to make sure. A report on crib/ infant mattresses from Clean & Healthy New York provides information on some manufacturers.

Building Products

All plastic foam insulations contain flame retardant chemicals of concern.

Learn more by visiting our page on flame retardants in building products.

Take Action

Urge the Consumer Product Safety Commission to move forward with their draft furniture flammability standard which will provide fire safety without the addition of toxic chemicals to products.

  • Sign our petition to the CPSC to Take the Toxic Chemicals out of my Couch. We ask the CPSC to hurry up and enact their draft standard.
  • Write to the CPSC – See below for Sample Comment:

    Sample Comment to CPSC

    “Dear Acting Chairman Adler: CPSC should immediately move forward with a furniture flammability standard to address smoldering ignitions following their 2008 draft standard or the new California standard TB117-2013.A smolder standard would reduce harmful and ineffective flame retardant chemicals in the nation’s furniture and prevent harm to our population’s health and environment. It would improve furniture safety now by helping to prevent the majority of furniture fires and deaths caused by smoldering cigarettes”

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Green Science Policy Institute provides information to the public as a service. The content of our website, publications, and correspondence should not be considered advice or endorsement and is for informational purposes only. As a scientific institute, we strive for accuracy; however, occasional errors are unavoidable. Green Science Policy Institute is not responsible for decisions made based on information we provide.

Press: Consumer Resources

KALW Your Call Radio: Toxic chemicals lurking in your home

Listen From flame retardant furniture to cleaning supplies, our homes harbor countless chemicals. Due to gaps in US regulations, the health and environmental risks of thousands of chemicals remain…

06 Apr 2016

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Goop: What We Need to Know About PFOAs

The toxic saga of chemical contamination related to Teflon and other highly fluorinated chemicals is a long and dark one—it’s most recently captured in Nathaniel Rich’s story,…

31 Mar 2016

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AJ+: Is Your House Toxic?

Watch Video The shampoo in your shower, the foam in your mattress, your TV, couch, carpet, pillows...chemicals are everywhere. And they aren't all safe. …

25 Mar 2016

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Science Magazine: Tackling Toxics

Most Americans believe that if a chemical is in their cosmetics, their coat, or their couch, someone is making sure it's safe for their health. In reality…

11 Mar 2016

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Dr. Oz Show: Are there carcinogens in children's pajamas?

Watch Video By law, children's pajamas have to meet flammability standards to keep your kids safe from fires. And, people are asking questions a…

09 Mar 2016

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Colorado Springs Business Journal: Study: Local water contaminated

Recent studies in Fountain, Security and Widefield show that the water there is contaminated with industrial chemicals that could cause a public healt…

14 Jan 2016

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Civil Eats: The FDA Just Banned These Chemicals in Food. Are They th…

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will withdraw its approval for three chemicals used to make grease, stain,…

06 Jan 2016

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New York Times Magazine: The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightm…

Just months before Rob Bilott made partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister, he received a call on his direct line from a cattle farmer. The farmer, Wil…

06 Jan 2016

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CNN: Where are dangerous toxins lurking in your home?

Watch Video It’s what allows the skier to slice through snow, and his suit stays dry: chemicals that repel water and oil, coating many microwave popcorn bags…

10 Jul 2015

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New York Times: Chemicals in your popcorn?

What do a pizza box, a polar bear and you have in common? All carry a kind of industrial toxicant called poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFA…

04 Jun 2015

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Guardian: Flame retardants may be coming off of furniture, but they'…

“When’s the last time you watched TV by candlelight?” asks Arlene Blum, founder of the Green Science Policy Institute. Blum questions the logic of te…

19 May 2015

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Guardian: Quest to eliminate chemical flame retardants from Californ…

A California regulation effectively eliminated the need for chemical flame retardants in furniture in November 2013. Two years later, though, experts s…

15 May 2015

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Science & Policy Blog: Consumer Resources

Industry funded website obscures flame retardant issues

As recent changes in regulations and increased media coverage bring deserved attention to the issue of flame retardant chemicals in consumer products, the chemical indust…

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Flame Retardants in Car Seats—Do We Need Them?

Car seats are essential to protecting children in cars. Due to a federal motor vehicle flammability standard, many materials in automobiles, including car seats, contain …

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Trading Health for Small Conveniences?

“Stain-resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal” is how journalist Callie Lyons describes a highly fluorinated chemical called C8. When C8 was released into the air a…

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My foam exchange story: How I saved big bucks without passing the bu…

I bought my sofa in California, “home” of the TB117 standard. I know 75-94% of sofas tested contain flame retardants. And clear as day, sewn onto my couch was a TB117 lab…

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The Proof is in the Sewage: Can Harmful Chemicals Move from Sofas to…

Rolf Halden: halogenated flame retardants contaminate natural resources and our bodies Rolf Halden is a professor at Arizona State University, adjunct faculty at John …

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Giants of industry move toward healthier products

It started in 2012 when Johnson & Johnson pledged to eliminate phthalates, triclosan, formaldehyde and parabens from its product line which includes Aveeno, Neutrogen…

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A broken fluorescent bulb? What now?

Energy analyst John Rogers of the Union of Concerned Scientists put it best, “don’t panic” but do clean it up safely. When a fluorescent bulb, or CFL, breaks, a small am…

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To be, or not to be, BPA-free

When consumer outcry got loud enough and states started their own bans, manufacturers stopped using bisphenol-A (BPA) in some baby products. In 2012, the FDA took limited…

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Presentations: Consumer Resources

Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal: The Hidden Dangers…

Speaker: Callie Lyons Author, Journalist Event The Flame Retardant Dilemma and Beyond Date & Time Friday, December …

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Navigating the Uncertainty of Compliance

Speaker: Bill Perdue VP Regulatory Affairs, American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) Event Green Science Policy Workshop: L…

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Toward Closing the Mass Balance on PFASs Associated with Consumer Pr…

Speakers: Jennifer Field Ph.D., Professor of Environmental & Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA and Graham Peaslee, Ph.D., Profess…

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Six classes webinar 8: Green chemistry

Speaker: Bob Peoples, Ph.D. Former Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute Event Six Classes Webinar Series Date & T…

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Inventing Green Chemistry Alternatives to the “Six Classes” of Harmf…

Speaker: John Warner, PhD President, Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry Event The Flame Retardant Dilemma and Beyo…

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The Flame Retardant Dilemma Series as an Example of Science-Driven P…

Speaker: Claudia Polsky, JD, Deputy Attorney General, California Department of Justice Event Flame Retardant Dilemma Symposiu…

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Keeping the couch you love: Replacing the foam for healthier furnitu…

Speaker: Michael Gorham, President, Foam Order Event Flame Retardant Dilemma Symposium Date …

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Flame Retardant Dilemma and Beyond

Speaker: Joseph Fleming Deputy Chief, Boston Fire Department Event The Flame Retardant Dilemma and Beyond Date & Tim…

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Progress on safer consumer product regulations & green chemistry

Speaker: Debbie Raphael, Director, California Dept. of Toxic Substances Control Event Flame Retardant Dilemma Symposium 2012:…

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California Safer Consumer Products Regulatory Framework and the Six …

Speaker: Meredith Williams, PhD Deputy Director, CA Department of Toxic Substances Control Event The Flame Retardant Dilemma…

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We Built This City on HFRs: Initiatives to Reduce Flame Retardants i…

Speaker: Avery Lindeman, MSc, Deputy Director, Green Science Policy Institute Event Flame Retardant Dilemma Symposium Dat…

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A History of Thermal Insulation Regulations in California

Speaker: Justin Paddock, JD Chief, California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (BEARHFTI) [toggle header="More about …

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