Archive for the ‘Flame retardants’ Category

California’s SB1019 Requires Disclosure of Flame Retardants in Furniture

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

 

 

On September 30, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1019, an important step forward in helping consumers avoid toxic flame retardants in their furniture. The new law, which goes into effect in 2015, will require furniture sold in California to clearly disclose if chemical flame retardants were added in order to meet flammability standards.

The new law follows up last year’s update to California’s Technical Bulletin 117 (a 1975 standard which required furniture sold in California to pass flammability tests). The update, known as TB117-2013, changed the way flammability is tested on furniture, foregoing the previously required open flame tests on the inner cushion to instead requiring a cigarette smolder test conducted on the outer fabric.  Because the majority of furniture cushioning is made from highly flammable polyurethane foam, open flame tests basically guaranteed the addition of flame retardants … and often a substantial amount.

Unfortunately, TB117-2013 did not require companies to disclose the use flame retardants, nor did it forbid their use.  This meant that while furniture makers could pass tests without injecting flame retardants into the foam, consumers still had little way of knowing if the chemicals were actually there or not. Considering the issue from a liability angle, it is not unreasonable to assume many companies would continue to add the chemicals.

With this new ruling, furniture makers can still add chemical flame retardants, but they must disclose their use through a label. Given public concerns over potential health and developmental issues in relationship to flame retardants, it’s unlikely that consumers, when given a choice, would select a piece of furniture with potentially dangerous chemicals if they could select one without. While these flammability rulings are only for California, given the size of the California market, they frequently affect furniture makers throughout the entire U.S.

The bill as written requires disclosure of flame retardants used in all components of the furniture.  The actual wording of the bill defines “Added flame retardant chemicals” as flame retardant chemicals that are present in any covered product or component thereof at levels above 1,000 parts per million. This suggests that even flame retardants mixed into synthetic fabrics at the time of their manufacture will still need to be disclosed.

It is important to note that this ruling applies to furniture and furnishing but not mattresses, which must meet a different set of standards and still must meet open flame tests, which are required at the national level. Because of the frequent use of polyurethane foam, many mattresses contain flame retardant chemicals. Naturepedic mattresses, however, pass state and flammability standards without the use of chemical flame retardants, including fabric or other barriers that could these chemicals.

This is a hugely important step forward in removing toxic flame retardants from furniture. You can go here to read the actual wording of SB1019 .

The Irony of Flame Retardants in Water: How These Chemicals Are Moving From Our Couches to Our Rivers

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Naturepedic mattresses don’t contain chemical flame retardants, compounds with suspected connections to human health and developmental problems. Jillian Pritchard Cooke, an interior designer specializing in healthier designs and founder of Wellness Within Your Walls, has connected flame retardants to poor indoor air quality. But what about outdoor water quality?

Scientists have been finding chemical flame retardants, particularly PBDEs, in rivers and waterways throughout the world. The question has been why? A recently released peer-review study published Sept. 17, 2014 by the journal Environmental Science & Technology offers some answers.

Washington Toxics Coalition report – How Toxic Flame Retardants Pollute Our Waterways

The report was co-authored by Erika Schreder, science director with the Washington Toxics Coalition, and Mark J. La Guardia, senior environmental research scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The study examined 20 homes in the Vancouver and Longview areas of Washington state, testing for 22 chemical flame retardants in common household dust. The study found 21 chemical flame retardants in the dust in varying amounts, with 72% of total flame retardant mass made up of chlorinated organophosphate flame retardants, also known as tris. Tris is commonly found in polyurethane foam (used in mattresses, sofas, and other furniture cushioning) and is suspected of being an endocrine disruptor.

Of those 21 flame retardants, the study found that 18 could be detected in laundry wastewater. In other words, the dust appeared to be adhering to clothing and other fabrics there were then washed, with the chemicals then heading to wastewater treatment plants.

By comparing flame retardant levels in wastewater treatment plant influents to estimates based on laundry wastewater levels, the study found that laundry wastewater is likely the primary source of flame retardant chemicals in waterways.

Dust particles are small, so what volume levels of flame retardants are involved? Mass loadings to the Columbia River from each individual treatment plant showed up to approximately 251 pounds per year for the flame retardant chemical TCPP alone. The study found that a single treatment plant along the Columbia River released a combination of three tris flame retardants at an estimated 384 pounds a year, which the Washington Toxics Coalition estimates to be the equivalent of the flame retardant used to treat 1,088 couches.

With more than 300 wastewater treatment plants in Washington, that adds up (multiple 300 by 384 and you get 115,200 pounds per year as a rough estimate). Research suggests a connection with chlorinated organophosphates and endocrine disruption in fish, but the available research is extremely limited.

The bottom line is that chemical flame retardants commonly found in mattresses and other home furnishings as well as consumer electronics potentially impact more than just people. Studies of the potentially harmful health and developmental effects of these substances must also examine what they mean for the fish and wildlife in and along our rivers and lakes.

New Study Looks at Chemicals Linked to Breast Cancer; Flame Retardants, Chemicals in Consumer Products Make Priority List

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

 

On May 12, 2014 the journal Environmental Health Perspectives published a new peer-reviewed study identifying seventeen types of chemicals specifically linked to breast cancer. Of the 102 chemicals in the study, many are ones women may be exposed to on a daily basis from everyday products.

Silent Spring Institute logo

Silent Spring Institute logo

The study was conducted by researchers at the Silent Spring Institute (named after Rachel Carson’s influential book) and the Harvard School of Public Health. While it may not come as a surprise that a number of the chemical types can be found in tobacco smoke and vehicle exhaust, some of the priority chemicals are found in common consumer products like ink jet and laser jet printers, hair dyes and paint. These are all chemicals legally used and virtually unregulated.

The study also identified flame retardants used in foams found in mattresses and furniture cushions and chemicals found in certain textile dyes as priority threats. Under current laws, manufacturers are not required to disclose the flame retardant chemicals or chemical dyes used in their products.

At Naturepedic we are proud that all of our mattresses for all ages, baby, youth and adult, meet flammability standards without the need for chemical flame retardants or barriers. Because our mattresses meet strict organic guidelines such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), you are guaranteed they do not contain toxic chemical dyes, either.

Our mattresses let us make a positive difference in people’s lives in our area of specialty: mattresses. To learn other ways you can avoid common carcinogenic chemicals, check out easy tips from the Silent Spring Institute published on the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families website.

Flame Retardants, Polyurethane Foam and Flashover

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

The Risks

There’s a lot of discussion over health concerns associated with chemical flame retardants, particularly those found in mattresses and furniture. One of the most common classes of flame retardants, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which was widely used for decades before the environmental community focused attention on it, and pressured manufacturers to stop, has been linked to an unsettling smorgasbord of issues including thyroid disruption, developmental issues in children, memory and cognitive problems, lower IQ and reduced fertility.

Studies of other flame retardants are seeing links to cancer. Groups representing firefighters in various states are raising concerns about the toxicity of flame retardants, arguing they increase the risks for cancer in first responders while doing little to retard fires.

So with these types of risks, why in the world are chemical flame retardants so prevalent?

The question lies less with the flame retardants themselves and more with the polyurethane foam in the furniture and mattresses.

Then vs. Now

Travel in time to a living room in 1940s America. The cushioning materials in the furniture include natural materials ranging from cotton, excelsior (wood shavings), down and horse hair.

Image from a magazine ad from 1955 - things were a little bit different

Image from a magazine ad from 1955 – things were a little bit different

Now today. Couches, chairs, crib mattresses, changing pads, and adult mattresses (including memory foam ones), are often filled with polyurethane foam, an intensely flammable material.

Flame retardants are used in an attempt to offset the stored energy in polyurethane foam, although their effectiveness is questionable, as you’ll see

Flashover

A “flashover” is the point in a house fire when an entire room self-ignites as a result of the heat caused by a fire.

Watch the eye-opening video above made by the National Institute of Standards and Testing. A room furnished with the typical synthetic fabrics and polyurethane foam cushioning of today reaches flashover in an astonishing three minutes and forty seconds!  Comparatively, a room furnished with items as would be found in a 1950s or so house takes almost a half hour.

The vintage materials burn, but without the rapid heat release of the polyurethane foam, which has been called “solid gasoline” by the National Association of State Fire Marshals. In fact, burning untreated polyurethane foam can reach temperatures of 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit in only minutes! That incredible heat release leads to an incredibly rapid flashover.

While other materials in the room contributed, the immense impact of polyurethane foam can’t be overstated.

Where There Is Smoke

You probably also notice the billowing black smoke from the fire. As mentioned earlier, firefighters have become increasingly concerned about the inhalation of carcinogenic flame retardants found in the smoke and increased cancer rates in firefighters.

Beyond the risk of flame retardants, though, is the risk of the deadly and debilitating hydrogen cyanide gas released from burning polyurethane foam. Inhaled hydrogen cyanide quickly leads to confusion, unconsciousness and death. Hydrogen cyanide is the gas used in the 1995 Tokyo subway attack and was implicated in the deadly concert fire in Rhode Island in 2003.

Highly Flammable Materials Require Flame Retardant Chemicals

When looking at the materials in your next mattress for you or your children, consider not only the materials in the mattress, but the flame retardant chemicals those materials demand. When buying a mattress, remember the 3 minute 40 second marker on the video.

Naturepedic Mattresses Contain No Flame Retardant Chemicals

Naturepedic organic mattresses do not require flame retardant chemicals to pass government flammability standards. We begin by using less flammable materials in the first place. Simply put: polyurethane foam requires chemical flame retardants, and we never use polyurethane foam.

 

 

Flame Retardant Soup

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Do you like soup?

I do. You can put all kinds of vegetable and spices into soup.

When I make soup my kids ask, “What’s in it?” to find out if I’ve added a veggie they’ve identified as one they don’t want.  My youngest has dug in his heels against broccoli and the older one against mushrooms.

They ask because they can’t tell if the offending food is in there.  Do I always tell? No. I sometimes sneak those veggies past them.

Synthetic mattress fabrics can be a toxic soup

Synthetic fabrics can sometimes be a toxic soup

Not too many parents will fault me for my sneakiness. If, however, I was intentionally sneaking really, really unhealthy, even dangerous, ingredients in that soup, opinions would be different.

Synthetic fibers are in one way a lot like soup. A manufacturer can put all types of different ingredients in there and the consumer is probably not going to know.

Take polyester. There are different formulations for polyester just like there are different ways to make vegetable soup. When polyester is being mixed, the manufacturer can add chemicals to change the texture or chemicals to change the sheen.

They can even add flame retardant chemicals implicated as potential causes of cancer / other health problems or learning disabilities.  Flame retardants like chlorinated tris, banned from children’s pajamas in the 1970s due to concerns about genetic mutations but still in many products today.

Even if an added chemical would be restricted (out of more than 80,000 chemicals, the EPA has only restricted six in the past 35 years, and of those a ban on asbestos was overturned!), manufacturers can tweak the formula to form a new, although not necessarily safer, chemical, and again, in it can go. The vast majority of chemicals used in fabrics are untested regarding health.

I’m not picking on polyester. Any synthetic fabric mixed in batches can have undesirable chemicals in the mix.  These chemicals for the most part do not need to be disclosed to a consumer and are virtually unregulated. In fact, if a flame retardant chemical was added to a synthetic fiber as it was being manufactured, a furniture or mattress maker using that fabric can claim NO FLAME RETARDANTS ADDED.  I’m not kidding.

While California is pushing forward with stronger chemical regulations, even if select chemicals do get banned, it will be years before they realistically are out of products, and, as mentioned earlier, other types of similar chemicals not banned could then be legally used.

The bottom line is how much do you want to risk? Because chemicals in fabrics are undisclosed, a consumer has little choice to pick and choose what chemicals are okay and what are not.

At least in mattresses there is a way of avoiding them altogether. A natural fabric like cotton is not a synthetic mix but grown, so it cannot have chemicals added during a manufacturing process. By selecting certified organic mattresses like we sell you can avoid unwanted chemicals being topically added to a fabric. (Unfortunately, non-certified organic products can still sometimes have those chemicals added.)

When Naturepedic formed eleven years ago, we began making organic mattresses not simply to be organic, but because organic was one of the best, most effective vehicles to get to healthier products. By using certified organic materials, we were able let the consumer know what is in their product, without guesswork or games.

Unless you can truly know the chemicals used in synthetic fabrics, the most effective way to avoid them is to select certified organic products.

Otherwise, you just don’t know what chemicals are being added to the “soup.”

 

When Does “No Flame Retardants” NOT Actually Mean “No Flame Retardants”?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

 

Many commonly used flame retardant chemicals are being connected to health and developmental issues.  Want a mattress without flame retardant chemicals?  Get a certified organic mattress.  Otherwise, flame retardants will probably be in that mattress, even if greenwashing marketing suggests otherwise, and you’re going to need to guess what they are.

It's not easy to find out what flame retardants are in your mattress

It’s not easy to find out what flame retardants are in your mattress

Let me explain with a little compare and contrast.

We say “Naturepedic mattresses meet all government flammability standards without flame barriers and other flame retardant chemicals.”

So why don’t we shorten that to “No flame retardants added” and call it a day?  That would mean the same thing, right?

Wrong.

Sure, when WE talk about not using flame retardants, we actually mean what we say.  We mean these chemicals are not in our mattress. Anywhere.

This straight-forward approach is not the case with most mattresses, however.  The loophole occurs with synthetic fabrics.

Now if a mattress maker would take a finished mattress and spray it with flame retardants, the mattress would have a flame retardant “added”.

If the mattress, however, includes synthetic fabrics originally manufactured with flame retardant chemicals, this is different.  Why?  Because the flame retardant chemicals are considered an integral or constituent part of the fabric.  These fabrics can be on the outside of the mattress or in flame barriers on the inside.  Regardless, the mattress maker can state, “No flame retardant chemicals added.”

But, you say, those chemicals are IN the mattress!

Yes, but the chemicals were integral to the flame barriers or fabric from the beginning. The greenwashing trick lies in the word added.  The chemicals weren’t added to the mattress!

Even worse?  These chemicals inserted into the fabric will likely not be disclosed to the consumer, so if you want to know the flame retardant used, you’ll probably need to guess.Flame retardants

Understand, this deceptive practice is not illegal.  I would argue immoral, but not illegal.

Who needs it?

But, you ask, why do manufacturers add (regardless of how it’s “added”) flame retardants into mattresses to begin with?  Who needs it?  Well, here is the bottom line – if you didn’t fill the mattress with highly flammable materials, then, in fact, you don’t need flame retardant chemicals!

But most mattresses are filled – to one degree or another – with polyurethane foam, which is a highly flammable material.  Some manufacturers add some soybean oil or castor oil and call the fill “soybean foam” or “eco-foam” or similar, but it’s still basically polyurethane foam.  And, when ignited, it can reach temperatures of 1400 degrees within minutes.

The only practical way to avoid flame retardant chemicals is to use certified organic products to ensure these chemicals have not been worked into fabrics and barriers.  Organic certification requires a level of disclosure that just doesn’t currently exist for fabrics.

Otherwise, you’re left guessing what flame retardants are in your mattress, and your health shouldn’t be left to guesswork.

 

 

Fire Retardants Linked to Developmental Problems in Children, Study Says

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011


I can’t help but notice a real concern with the toxicity of fire retardants when I’m reading other’s blogs, articles, online consumer reviews and comments about crib mattresses and other children’s products. The concern is often focused on PBDEs, commonly used toxic flame retardant chemicals that are in just about everything. Should we be concerned? According to a unique study conducted by The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the answer is a very definite yes.

The researchers on this unique study analyzed the cord blood of 210 infants and then followed up for the next six years. The children were tested at 12, 24, 36 48 and 72 months for psychomotor development, mental development, performance IQ, verbal IQ and full-scale IQ.

The results showed that children with PBDEs in their cord blood scored significantly lower on the later tests. In fact, the higher the prenatal exposure to PBDEs, the lower the scores. Scores on some tests were as much at 10.9 points lower than the scores of children with less prenatal exposure.

PBDEs are widely used flame-retardant chemicals that are in everything from carpets, upholstery and drapery fabrics, children’s clothing, mattresses and furniture to appliances, insulation, building materials, computers and other electronic equipment.

How do PBDEs get into our system?

Because they are added to the products rather than chemically bound to them, they can be released into the air, lodge in dust, and anywhere else they happen to land, where they can be inhaled and even ingested.

PBDEs also don’t break down easily; once they’re in the body they tend to stay there. This also means they accumulate in the body with additional exposure and the levels just keep going up.

What can you do about it?

As the PDBEs in your home can be airborne, it’s important to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. But the most important step you can take is to phase out PBDEs in your own home. Instead, choose products that do not contain “PBDEs”, “brominated fire retardants” or “Deca.”

Many furniture manufacturers and stores, like Ikea, are conscious of the dangers of PBDEs and offer PBDE-free furniture.

For textiles – draperies, upholstered furniture, mattresses, and so on, look for fibers that are naturally fire retardant – organic cotton and wool are good examples. And always check with the manufacturer if there is no information on the label. All of our Naturepedic crib mattresses and other products are made with organic cotton and free of PBDEs and any other harmful chemicals, so that’s a good place to start in protecting your children.

If you’d like to read the full study, it’s available on the Environmental Health Perspectives website.

Anyone who is a potential father or mother should start getting rid of PBDEs and other harmful chemicals right now. Your child’s future depends on it.