Toxic Sofas

We've been hearing about the dangers of brominated flame retardants for awhile now, yet there was always the assumption that they served some purpose. Nicholas Kristoff's column in the 5/20/12 New York Times, "Are You Safe on that Sofa?" tells us the truth about these chemicals and how they became so widely used.

In his words:
It turns out that our furniture first became full of flame retardants because of the tobacco industry, according to internal cigarette company documents examined by The Tribune. A generation ago, tobacco companies were facing growing pressure to produce fire-safe cigarettes, because so many house fires started with smoldering cigarettes. So tobacco companies mounted a surreptitious campaign for flame retardant furniture, rather than safe cigarettes, as the best way to reduce house fires.

The documents show that cigarette lobbyists secretly organized the National Association of State Fire Marshals and then guided its agenda so that it pushed for flame retardants in furniture. The fire marshals seem to have been well intentioned, but utterly manipulated.

Brominated flame retardants are known to be endocrine disrupters and pose health risks to pregnant women and young children in particular. In fact "The breast milk of American women contains the highest levels of BFRs in human breast milk found anywhere in the world."1

The NYT article is eye opening and will hopefully lead to changes in the pervasive use of these chemicals.

1 Health Care Without Harm