New report finds some major mattress and furniture companies still report flame retardant use
despite safer alternatives

December 1, 2015

 

Toxic flame retardant chemicals are no longer needed in home products made with polyurethane foam—but a new report shows that while many companies are making sure their products are free of toxic flame retardants, others are lagging behind.

 

The national Safe Sofas and More campaign surveyed the top mattress, furniture, and carpet padding manufacturers and found a significant percentage of the companies have failed to ensure the foam in their products is flame retardant free or do not provide any information. Today's report, "Flame Retardants in Furniture, Foam, Floors: Leaders, Laggards, and the Drive for Change," identifies clear leaders that have removed toxic flame retardants from their products and provided clear information to consumers on their websites, by phone, and on labels. On the other hand, the report also identifies laggards that do not make sure foam in their products is free of toxic flame retardants and/or do not provide enough information for consumers to make smart decisions.  The new report found:

Advocates call for home goods makers to

end use of toxic additives

  • Mattresses: Of the 11 mattress makers that provided information, six (54%) have not removed toxic flame retardants from all products – including five that do not actively source flame retardant-free foam for all products. Three companies did not provide information publicly or respond to the campaign’s letter. Companies not sourcing FR-free foam are: Corsicana, E.S. Kluft, Southerland, and Symbol. Select Comfort Sleep Number reported not using specific flame retardant chemicals but would not state their products were FR-free. Spring Air has two brands that are FR-free and two that are not.

 

  • Furniture: After a change in the California flammability standard has made it possible for sofa makers to meet protective flammability standards without adding toxic chemicals, 90% (10 of 11) of the companies that responded to the survey had eliminated these chemicals. One company, Bassett, had removed FR chemicals in domestic products but not imported ones. However, six leading companies do not make information available on their website or via customer service phone lines, and did not respond to the campaign’s letter. Companies that did not disclose were: Berhardt, Dorel, Franklin, Heritage Home (though they reported being FR-free elsewhere), Home Maridian, and Lexington.

 

  • Carpet padding: Manufacturers typically take their feedstock from other foam-based product waste, and this reprocessed material can contain long-banned or removed flame retardant chemicals. According to the new survey, this is an ongoing problem, although two manufacturers avoid this issue by using rubber instead of foam. Two more offer flame-retardant free products from virgin foam, showing that it is possible for businesses to avoid the use of these harmful chemicals. Three provided no public information or response to our survey. There is no fire safety standard that requires the addition of chemicals to carpet padding.

 

Advocates called on the companies they surveyed to end the use of toxic flame retardants in their products, noting that both furniture and mattress makers can meet fire safety standards using flame resistant barriers and inherently smolder-resistant fabrics. They also called on companies to be more transparent to the public – by labeling products, providing information on their websites, and training their customer service representatives to answer questions about how flammability standards are met and whether toxic flame retardants are present in mattresses, furniture and other products.

 

In particular, the Safe Sofas campaign noted that Corsicana, the sixth top selling mattress maker, does not source flame retardant-free foam, unlike the five top-selling mattress manufacturers.

 

“In 2015, there is no need for home furniture makers or mattress manufacturers to allow flame retardant chemicals in the products they sell. These chemicals come out into house dust, enter people’s bodies and the environment, and can harm our health,” said Bobbi Chase Wilding of Clean and Healthy New York, who coordinated the report. “It’s time for these companies to shut the door on toxic flame retardants.”

 

"Although shown to be ineffective, flame retardant chemicals have been so overused in consumer products and furniture that they have contaminated our homes, our bodies, our children, and the environment we live in. When they burn, cancer-causing dioxins are formed, and our research has shown that fire fighters and first responders are developing several types of cancer from occupational exposure. This is unnacceptable. It is time for manufacturers to stop allowing chemicals in everyday products that are harmful to human health," said Susan Shaw, DrPH, Director of the Marine & Environmental Research Institute and adjunct professor of environmental chemistry at SUNY Albany.

 

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman said, “When furnishing our homes we expect manufacturers to provide us with safe products that protect our homes and families from fires. Often, however, manufacturers simply trade one danger for another, covering their products with unnecessary flame retardant chemicals that are toxic and environmentally damaging. This report by Clean and Healthy NY shows that we need to do more to protect our homes and families, which my Upholstered Furniture Safety Act would do by prohibiting the use of chemical flame retardants on residential upholstered furniture. I want to thank Clean and Healthy NY and the Safe Sofas and More campaign for bringing much needed attention to this issue and look forward to working with them to ensure the health and safety of consumers throughout our state."

 

Top tips for families this shopping season:

  • Use this report as a guide when selecting products.

  • When buying furniture like sofas from a store, look for the label. Newer models should include a tag that says the product meets the California Flammability Standard TB117-2013, and have a check in a box for “does not contain flame retardant chemicals.” Older models with tags stating they meet TB117 (not 2013) most likely contain toxic flame retardants in the foam.

  • Ask the retailer or company before you purchase a mattress.

  • Damp mop and dust your home to remove contaminants from existing products with flame retardants.

 

About the Safe Sofas and More campaign:

The Safe Sofas and More campaign advocates for non-hazardous fire safety techniques to improve health and safety. The campaign is supported by a growing, diverse alliance of public health, environmental and consumer groups representing millions of Americans who support the safety of chemicals and materials in products, and who are concerned about the use of flame retardant chemicals such as organohalogens, organophosphates, and nanomaterials.

 

Partner organizations:

Alaska Community Action on Toxics ▪ Capital District Against Fracking ▪ Center for Environmental Health ▪ Center for Media and Democracy ▪ Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder of Georgia (CHADD) ▪ Citizens Campaign for the Environment ▪ Clean and Healthy New York, Inc. ▪ Clean Water Action Massachusetts ▪ Clean Water Action Minnesota ▪ Coalition for a Safe and Healthy CT ▪ Connecticut Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund ▪ Connecticut Citizens Action Group ▪ Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice ▪ Connecticut Nurses' Association ▪ Conservation Minnesota ▪ Ecology Center ▪ Health and Environment Program, Commonweal ▪ Healthy Legacy Coalition ▪ Informed Green Solutions ▪ Kids Enabled ▪ Learning Disabilities Association of America ▪ Learning Disabilities Association of Georgia ▪ Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois ▪ Learning Disabilities Association of Maine ▪ Maryland PIRG ▪ Physicians for Social Responsibility ▪ Texas Campaign for the Environment & TCE Fund ▪ Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility ▪ UPSTREAM ▪ Vermont Conservation Voters

 

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