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CBS ConsumerWatch: Health expert warns of toxic chemicals in baby products

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”

Support Green Science Policy Institute

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  • Please donate so that we can continue to stop toxics and protect the health of our children, wildlife, and the planet.

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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

San Jose Mercury News: California seeks to remove toxic chemicals fr…

California took steps to reduce the toxins found in children's sleeping products and home and building supplies on Thursday, when regulators announ…

13 Mar 2014

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San Jose Mercury News: Wal-Mart tells suppliers no more harmful chem…

In one of the boldest moves toward eliminating toxins from products consumers use everyday, Wal-Mart Stores on Thursday notified its suppliers they…

27 Feb 2014

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The Doctor Oz Show: The toxic flame retardants in your home right no…

Toxic flame-retardant chemicals can be found in your chairs, sofas – even your baby furniture. Investigative reporter Elisabeth Leamy joins Dr. Oz to sound the alarm on their dangers with the help…

19 Dec 2013

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WTOP: Study finds that accumulation of chemical compound from house …

They sit in our homes like beloved antiques from the disco era. But there is good reason to avoid those old foam-stuffed couches. These slightly ratt…

25 Sep 2013

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CBS5 ConsumerWatch: Health expert warns of toxic chemical in Califor…

Many parents who wouldn't dream of exposing their babies to toxic chemicals may inadvertently be doing just that by purchasing nursing pillows and car seats that conform t…

26 May 2013

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Sierra Club Radio: Is your couch making you sick?

Listen Is your couch making you sick? Arlene Blum, director of the Green Science Policy Institute, talks with us about the fight to get toxic flame retardants out of our sofas and everything you n…

04 May 2013

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Berkeleyside: Testing Berkeley homes for hazards: What we found

Tong Xiao and Belinda Lyons-Newman recently tested a number of North Berkeley homes for chemical health hazards following scientifi…

05 Mar 2013

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NBC Nightly News: Sofas may contain harmful chemicals

Watch on NBC: Sofas may contain harmful chemicals

09 Dec 2012

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CBC Marketplace: Burned – flame retardants under investigation

On this week’s Marketplace, Tom Harrington investigates flame retardants in our homes and reveals the toxic chemicals used to prevent or slow down the spread of fire may b…

30 Nov 2012

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Huffington Post: New flame retardants, other replacement chemicals, …

Elizabeth Crowe recently learned that the red couch in her family's living room holds a toxic secret -- hidden inside its foam filling is a toxic chemic…

28 Nov 2012

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Scientific American blog: Fire safety buzzkill (infographic)

Are toxic flame retardants in your home? YES. Flame retardants are added to many household items to meet fire safety standards. But there are no…

28 Nov 2012

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San Francisco Chronicle: Chemicals in furniture hard to avoid

From San Francisco Chronicle Toxic flame retardants pervade the nation's households, especially California's, and little can be done to keep them out …

28 Nov 2012

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Science & Policy Blog: Consumer Resources

Walmart tackles its "top ten"

In September 2013, Walmart announced a plan to phase out ten hazardous chemicals found in many of the products it sells. Now, Walmart has notified its suppliers they will…

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Are flame retardants the secret ingredient in your home-cooked meals…

A new study has found that brominated flame retardants are present in black thermo cups and kitchen utensils bought in Europe. These types of chemicals have been linked t…

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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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New research finds association between cat hyperthyroid disease and …

An informative new study of 72 cats by Mensching, et al. confirmed that domestic cats have high concentrations of PBDE flame retardants in their blood. The study c…

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Getting the most out of our redesigned website

One month ago, Green Science Policy Institute launched our redesigned website for 2014. We reimagined the structure and layout from the ground up to help us achieve our m…

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California's proposed furniture standard: What you need to know

Proposed regulation is a win-win-win for fire safety, health and environment Usually people aren't eagerly awaiting the arrival of new furniture flammability stand…

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Why can’t I buy flame retardant-free furniture in California yet?

Perhaps you, too, were waiting for that clock to strike midnight on January 1, 2014 to buy a new sofa. In that one second, a regulation that led to the use of toxic flame…

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Presentations: Consumer Resources

Six classes webinar 5: Solvents

Speaker: Liz Harriman Deputy Director, Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute Event Six Classes Webinar Series Dat…

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Responsible disposal of flame retarded furniture foam

Speaker: Stephen Naylor, PhD, Science and Policy Associate, Green Science Policy Institute Event Flame Retardant Dilemma Symp…

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Six classes webinar 3: Flame retardants

Speaker: Arlene Blum, Ph.D. Executive Director, Green Science Policy Institute Visiting Scholar in Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley [toggle header="More …

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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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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’s Safer Consumer Product Program: Opportunities to affect…

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

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Halogenated flame retardants: A global concern

Arlene Blum, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar, Dept. of Chemistry, UC Berkeley Event Flame Retardant Dilemma Symposium 2012: Do flame …

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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 & Time Friday, February …

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Six classes webinar 1: Fluorinated chemicals

Speaker: Jennifer Field, Ph.D. Oregon State University Event Six Classes Webinar Series Date & Time Tuesday, Octobe…

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Six classes webinar 4: Endocrine disrupting plasticizers

Speaker: Carol Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Inc. Event Six Classes Webinar Series Date & Ti…

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Six classes webinar 2: Antimicrobials

Speaker: Gary Ginsberg, Ph.D. Toxicologist, Connecticut Dept. of Public Health Yale University, University of Connecticut Ev…

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Six classes webinar 6: Heavy metals

Speaker: Graham Peaslee, Ph.D. Hartgerink Professor of Chemistry, Hope College Event Six Classes Webinar Series Date …

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