Today, toxic flame retardants are found all around the planet – from arctic and marine ecosystems to your very own home and office. They build up in our bodies, and are linked to cancer, hormonal disruption, decreased fertility, neurological impairments, lower birth weight and a range of other health and developmental problems. Many scientific studies show that flame retardant chemicals pollute the environment and contaminate the food chain. Evidence of any meaningful improvement in fire safety from the use of flame retardants in furniture is lacking, while they can increase smoke toxicity.
Is the risk worth it?
GET THE FACTS
Flame retardants are found in a variety of household products despite evidence they put people's health at risk.
"We spend up to 90% of our time indoors – in our homes, our offices or at school. However, studies show that indoor environment can be more polluted and therefore worse for our health than air outdoors. Worrying harmful chemical pollutants such as flame retardants have been routinely found in dust. Children, particularly babies and toddlers playing on floors, are specifically vulnerable to ingesting these pollutants through breathing in or eating dust".
Michael Warhurst, ChemTrust
"Flame retardant chemicals are linked to a number of disorders, including fertility problems, brain development disorders, neurotoxicity, thyroid effects and cancer. Many of them are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, interfering with hormone signalling in the body and can therefore affect health in many ways. Long term exposure occurring in homes and offices poses uncontrolled and involuntary risks".
Jamie Page, The Cancer Prevention & Education Society
"Flame retardant chemicals leak out of products and build up in the environment. They create a toxic legacy that does not disappear over time, but stays in the air, soil and sediments of the oceans - eventually ending up in the food we eat".
Tatiana Santos, The European Environmental Bureau (EEB)
"We have already seen kitchen utensil and plastics cutlery with hazardous flame retardants. As long as toxic chemicals enter the cycle, they might end up recycled into new products. Toxins in, toxins out".
Joan Marc Simon, Zero Waste Europe (ZWE)
"Concerning assessment of a possible decrease in the risk of fires associated with use of flame retardants, available data do not make it possible to conclude that flame retardants in upholstered furniture for domestic use are effective".
French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES, 2015)
"Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants can increase fire toxicity, but their overall benefit in improving fire safety has not been proven".
San Antonio Statement, more than 200 worldwide experts
"Too many risks are linked to consumer's exposure to flame retardants and it is now clear that the current situation is a loss for everybody. We need a real discussion on the consequences of using flame retardant chemicals in furniture, and a clear answer to how fire safety can be achieved in more effective and less harmful ways".
Markus Wiesner, The European Furniture Industries Confederation (EFIC)
An Alliance of stakeholders, NGOs and industry is strongly committed to end the use of flame retardants in the furniture sector: "Mounting evidence makes it clear that using flame retardants in furniture is simply not worth the risk. They provide little meaningful protection against fires, but they do pose health risks".
The Alliance for Flame Retardants Free Furniture
There is no need to choose between fire safety and preventing exposure to hazardous flame retardants. The Alliance for Flame Retardant Free Furniture is calling on the European Commission and the EU Member States to harmonise furniture flammability requirements at a level that would not lead to flame retardants use, considering health and environmental risks.
A safe fire safety is possible.