-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Many couches sold in the
United States contain toxic chemical flame retardants that have
been linked with cancer, hormone disruption and neurological
damage, according to a new study.
Researchers tested 102 couches and found that 85 percent of them
were treated with chemical flame retardants that are known to be
toxic or lack adequate information about their health effects.
Forty-one percent of the couches contained chlorinated Tris
(TDCPP), a cancer-causing flame retardant removed from baby pajamas
in the 1970s, and 17 percent contained the worldwide-banned
chemical pentaBDE, the Duke University and University of
California, Berkeley, researchers said.
They noted that many of the flame retardants found in the sofas
are associated with hormone disruption, neurological and
reproductive damage, and cancer in hundreds of animal studies and a
number of human studies.
The chemicals continuously move out of furniture foam into house
dust, which can then be consumed by pets and people, especially
small children who are near floors and put their hands in their
mouths, the researchers explained.
The study was published Nov. 28 in the journal
Environmental Science & Technology.
"Hard to believe, 35 years after our research contributed to removing Tris from children's sleepwear, our current study suggests that more than a third of Americans' couches contain the same toxic flame retardant," study co-author Dr. Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute, said in a UC Berkeley news release. "And sadly enough, many Americans could now have increased cancer risks from the Tris in their furniture."
The Berkeley-based institute provides unbiased scientific data
to government, industry and nongovernmental organizations.
In related news, another study published the same day found that
most homes have levels of flame retardants that are above federal
health guidelines. The study was conducted by researchers at the
Massachusetts-based Silent Spring Institute, which identifies links
between chemicals and women's health, especially breast cancer.
"Our study of flame retardants in homes found two different cancer-causing Tris flame retardants in the dust inside all of the homes we studied," study first author Robin Dodson said in the news release.
In a statement, a group representing furniture makers said the
industry has been caught between legislative demands to make
products both fire-resistant and at the same time free of hazardous
"In 1978, the industry established the Upholstered Furniture Action Council (UFAC) and released voluntary upholstery construction guidelines that . . . combine to make an upholstered piece resistant to ignition by a smoldering cigarette," the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) said in the statement. And, it added, "over the past 25 years, the incidence of household fires involving upholstered furniture in the United States has been reduced by more than 85 percent."
However, part of that success has been based on the
incorporation of flame-retardant chemicals in upholstery, AHFA
"Throughout nearly four decades of debate over how best to reduce the number of residential fires that involve upholstered furniture, AHFA has steadfastly maintained the position that product modifications should be made only as they are proven safe, effective and affordable for the greatest number of consumers," the group said in the statement.
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