Two Central Kentucky mothers participated in a Duke University-led study published today that shows that a vast majority of U.S. couches contain potentially toxic flame retardants that pose risks to humans. Wendy Koch of USA Today reports that the risks occur when the chemicals migrate from furniture foam into house dust.
The closely watched study revealed that more than 40 percent of the foam in the 102 couches tested contained the carcinogen chlorinated Tris, a substance that was ordered removed from children’s pajamas 35 years ago. Another 17 percent of the couches contained pentaBDE, a globally banned substance. More than 85 percent were treated with a potentially toxic flame retardant, which researchers and experts say amounted to more than a pound of chemicals per couch. Flame retardants have been linked to hormone disruption, cancer and neurological toxicity in hundreds of animal and human studies. A fire specialist told Koch that the chemicals are not effective in suppressing fires.
The two Kentuckians, both women concerned about their family’s health, sent samples from their couches to be analyzed and both expressed horror at the findings. Dr. David A. Atwood, a chemist at the University of Kentucky, said a systematic shift in chemical regulation is necessary to protect public health. “We have made an enormous mistake assuming that a chemical should be used freely until it is determined to have adverse health effects, rather than taking the position that all chemicals should be avoided unless it is absolutely certain that the chemical is safe.”
In New York, legislation is already in motion that would ban chlorinated Tris. According to the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, efforts will begin next year to restrict the toxic chemical. (Read more)