According to a Sunday, May 3, The New York Times RetroReport called “Safety on Fire,” many chemicals used in flame retardant furniture treatments designed to delay a fire from spreading are toxic. Yet, the degree of their long-term influence on human health is unknown.
Healthcare studies since the 1970’s indicate a correlation between these chemicals and lowered IQ, memory loss, immune system dysfunction and nervous system damage, but there hasn’t been enough research done. There have also been few investigations into long-term health effects and few regulations drafted to control the amount of flame retardants that manufacturers use. Worse yet, additional studies have revealed that a lot of the chemicals in flame retardants do not remain on products — especially furniture made of foam or cloth. Instead, Mikal Watts said the chemicals leach into the environment resulting in them being absorbed through the skin or breathed into the body. Often, over time, they become a toxic dust.
As many home fires start with a lit cigarette, new studies out of California have revealed that new designs in furniture may be all that is needed to delay, or even prevent, the spread of a fire. These studies seem to indicate that flame retardants are not as necessary as was previously thought. Yet, many Americans are not going to give up their old furniture and household items in exchange for new retardant-free ones without nationwide recalls and new regulations.