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Contact: Stephenie Hendricks 415 258-9151 stephdh@earthlink.net

November 28, 2012

Toxic Chemicals Linked to Cancer Found in Couches
New Study Shows Carcinogen in Flame Retardant Chemicals

(Washington, DC) A new peer reviewed study published today in Environmental Science and Technology shows a carcinogen has been used to replace banned toxic flame retardants in many couches sampled across the United States.

“Hard to believe, 35 years after our research contributed to removing chlorinated Tris from children’s sleepwear, our current study suggests that more than a third of American couches contain the same toxic flame retardant,” said Dr. Arlene Blum, co-author of the study and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. “And sadly enough, many Americans could now have increased cancer risks from the chlorinated Tris in their furniture.”

Kathy Curtis, LPN, and National Coordinator of the Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety says, “It is alarming to know the couch I’ve owned for seven years, which my children and grandchild have sat on, played on, and grown up on, is shedding harmful chemicals. It’s especially maddening given these chemicals don’t provide any meaningful fire safety benefit in regards to the current regulations,” said Curtis, who supports a New York legislative effort that would ban chlorinated Tris.

Policy momentum is building across the country to eliminate toxic flame retardant chemicals while providing effective fire safety. In addition to New York, a dozen other states are launching efforts in 2013 to restrict chlorinated Tris. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is working to adopt a re-drafted flammability standard, which can be met without the use of toxic chemicals. And the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive chemical reform bill, the Safe Chemicals Act, out of the Environment and Public Works committee earlier this year. This bill could ultimately stop the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals in products.

“Communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by toxic chemicals from many sources,” says Ana Mascareñas, Policy and Communications Director with Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles. “Many low-income folks hang onto their furniture longer, increasing the chance their furniture contains already banned toxic flame retardant chemicals, and the aging materials continue emitting chemicals in household dust. We’ve tried for several years now to get our state legislature to change or halt this exposure, but the flame retardant chemical industry influence has been too great.”

Judy Levin, MSW, and Pollution Prevention Co-Director with Center for Environmental Health, had her couch sampled and it tested positive for a cancer causing flame retardant. “I carefully picked my couch for style and comfort. Little did I know that the biggest decision about my couch, whether it contained toxic flame retardants, was out of my control. I am angry about the succession of toxic chemicals that the flame retardent chemical industry touts as safe, only to be proven, after we have all been exposed, that they are not safe at all."

Sonya Lunder, Senior Analyst with Environmental Working Group comments, “I bought my couch in 2008, after a multi-year effort to ban toxic PBDE fire retardants in foam furniture. At that point I didn't know that another class of toxic chemicals would take their place. We must not allow flame retardant chemical companies to add cancer causing chemicals to consumer products. When I was a kid my mother wrote letters to government officials asking them to take Tris out of my fleece pajamas,” she continued. “Now I am a mother and come find out these chemicals are stuffed inside my couch cushions? Calling this an outrage doesn't do it justice."

Lisa Turner, a concerned mother from Michigan, was a study participant. Upon learning the results (her couch tested positive for Firemaster 550), Turner said “As a nursing mother, I have spent countless hours on my couch with my children. I shudder to think about what I unknowingly exposed them to, when they were most vulnerable. I shouldn’t need a Ph.D. in Chemistry in order to determine what products are safe for my family.”

Molly Rauch, with Moms Clean Air Force, had her couch tested. “I am troubled that a cancer-causing chemical deemed too risky to put in children’s pajamas – Tris – was poured into my couch foam without my knowledge. My children sit on this couch every day. They do their homework on it, they read books on it, they play with our cats on it. Now I know they likely also breathe Tris on it. This is unacceptable to me, and to parents everywhere.”

"Just a couple weeks before I am about to have my first child, I am learning that the sofa in my living room contains a toxic flame retardant called chlorinated Tris that is linked to cancer." said Jenny Rottmann, a participant of the study from Maine. "I would have been concerned about these results no matter what. But as someone who will become a new mom in just a few days, I am furious."

"This study shows what we have long suspected, that the current federal law does not protect us from toxic chemicals in everyday products. Until we have real federal reform, state legislatures will continue stepping up to protect their citizens from these hidden dangers,” adds Sarah Doll, National Director, Safer States.

“I submitted a sample for testing and was shocked to discover that my beloved couch is loaded with chlorinated tris, a cancer-causing chemical. How dare they! When I bought my couch at a major retailer in Long Island a few years ago, there was nothing on the label indicating the couch was filled with this unnecessary toxic chemical. We need manufacturers and retailers l to get these dangerous chemicals out of our couches now, comments Mike Schade, with Center for Health, Environment & Justice.

"When I bought a new couch from a major retailer a few years ago, I had no idea I was going to be exposing my family to clorinated Tris, a chemical that was removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s as a mutagen and likely carcinogen. Why should I have to worry about letting my little granddaughter sit and lie on that couch? It's crazy," says Emily Moore, Minnesota grandmother

Take Action to call upon the Consumer Product Safety Commission to finalize their draft smolder flammability standard for upholstered furniture.


Images and Video for Bloggers & Reporters Here

Alliance for Toxic Free Fire Safety

Environmental Science & Technology Article

Green Science Policy Institute

FlameRetardants and Communities of Color Advisory