Flame retardants don’t save us, they kill

As you snuggle on your old comfy couch with your grandchildren, you have much more in common with them than you’d imagine.

But unfortunately, what you share is potentially lethal…

Your grandchild has higher levels of toxic flame retardant chemicals in their blood than a child in any other part of the world. And you are at unnecessarily high risk for thyroid disease and cancer because of the toxic load you carry.

But it isn’t your fault.

This insidious poisoning of our population began long ago, when Big Tobacco decided to put their profits ahead of your health.

Profits before people

Decades ago, cigarette companies saw a threat to their ever-increasing wealth. The number of deaths caused by smokers falling asleep with a lit cigarette, on their chair couch, or bed, was skyrocketing.

Instead of developing a cigarette that wouldn’t incinerate, tobacco companies responded to pressure for a solution by teaming up with another greedy industry, and starting a chain of lies that is only now being exposed.

Behind closed doors, Big Tobacco helped organize the National Association of State Fire Marshals. They then pressured this group to lobby for rules requiring the addition of flame retardants to household furniture.

It didn’t take long for chemical companies to recognize their chance to cash in as well. They formed their own group, Citizens for Fire Safety, and lobbied heavily for rulings that would mandate the addition of fire retardants to all upholstered furniture and mattresses.

A front for greed

Citizens for Fire Safety claimed to be composed of doctors, fire safety professionals, burn centers, fire departments, and community activists.

The truth? The group had only three members: Albemarle, ICL Industrial Products, and Chemura, the three largest manufacturers of toxic flame retardant chemicals.

These greedy corporations told bald-faced lies in order to protect their profits.

They hired a doctor who fabricated stories of babies who died in fires while sleeping on mattresses unprotected by flame retardants.

They falsely claimed to work with local fire prevention groups, while at the same time launching campaigns to block the anti-chemical efforts of these groups.

The worst lie of all

Want to know the worst part of this?


That’s right. The ability of these chemicals to prevent fires is pure fiction. Their presence gives you about three extra seconds before your furniture ignites.

But, in most fires, it’s the smoke that kills. And the presence of OFRs, the most common and most toxic class of retardants, produces twice the smoke, six times the carbon monoxide, and ninety times the soot.

In other words, the use of flame retardants makes you more likely to die in a fire.

But things are starting to change. Our government is finally acknowledging the deadliness of the flame retardant chemicals they’ve been forcing us to live with for decades.

  • In 2014, a new standard was established with California’s “TB 117-2013” law. While the law does not forbid furniture manufacturers to use OFRs, it does give them a way around it.

A new flammability standard, the “smolder test,” can be met by lining furniture with a fire shield, rather than using toxic chemicals.

  • In September 2017, the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission published a notice in the Federal Register warning that OFR flame retardants pose a “present and serious health issue,” and that using them in household products is “ill advised.”
  • In August 2017, Maine led the nation when it passed LD-182, the first law in the country to phase out all toxic flame retardants in upholstered furniture (beginning in 2019).

How to protect yourself

  • Avoid furniture that meets California’s TB117 law (the old version of TB 117-2013). Look for a tag on the bottom of your chair or couch that says, “This article meets the flammability requirements of California Bureau of Home Furnishing Technical Bulletin 117.” You’ll be sitting on about five pounds of OFRs.
  • Stop dressing children or grandchildren in pajamas that have flame retardants.
  • Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. OFRs live in dust particles. Once you breathe them, they stay in your body permanently.
  • If you do have older furniture, inspect the foam cushioning for damage. Cracks in the foam allow chemicals to escape more easily.
  • Old carpet padding probably contains OFRs. When removing carpet, wear a dust mask, and isolate the area from the rest of your home.
  • Make your home fireproof in other ways. Change smoke alarm batteries regularly. Buy a fire extinguisher and check it regularly. And, consider not smoking.

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.