Is Vt. ban on flame retardant furniture enough? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Is Vt. ban on flame retardant furniture enough?

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Vermont enacted a tough ban on a toxic, flame-retardant chemical five months ago, but a new report says a majority of children's furniture now contains a different  potentially harmful chemical.

Flame retardants have been used to make foamy furniture for years, and there is concern over just how dangerous those chemicals are to people.  

"So many of the chemicals that are used as flame retardants have very little research done on them," said Sarah Vose, the Vermont State Toxicologist. Vose says The chemicals have been found to leak out of furniture and have been found in house dust, which is then easily ingestible. "Some of them are suspected endocrine disrupters and some of them are suspected carcinogens, but for many of them we have very little scientific information about them. We do know from exposure studies where they look at people's house dust we know that these chemicals are in people's homes so we do think there is exposure to most people to a lot of these compounds," she said.

And a new study bears that out -- it focuses on children's furniture and was done by Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which partnered with the Center for Environmental Heath. "Samples were sent in from across the country, including this one from Vermont and we were looking at are these really unnecessary and harmful chemicals being put into our kids furniture," said Lauren Hierl, a VPIRG Environmental Health Advocate. "They ended up finding that 90 percent of the samples sent in did contain chemicals of concern."

Vose says all furniture in this country is made to meet  a California standard called TB 117 -- basically the materials have to withstand an open flame test, meaning it has been treated with flame retardant chemicals. You can find the stamp on many products.  But just this week that standard was softened, meaning furniture only needs to withstand a smoldering test.  Health advocates say maybe that means less chemicals will be used in making furniture in the future.

The Vermont Legislature last session passed Act 85 which will eventually ban the use of two flame retardant chemicals. "Act 85 was a really important act.  It made Vermont one of the few states to specifically ban TDCP and TCEP, which are two specific flame retardants. That was a good thing for Vermonters, so in the future our furniture and children's products will not have those chemicals in them. But those chemicals are only two of potentially hundreds of flame retardant chemicals that can be used in furniture," Vose said.

VPIRG's Lauren Hierl says parents should look for alternative materials to foam. "Parents can avoid right now if you look at things that have more natural fibers --things stuffed with cotton or wool -- wooden furniture, canvas, things like that. If it is this foam, it will tend to have these chemicals, so I would recommend avoiding these," she said.

Or you can try calling the manufacturer to find out what flame retardant chemicals were used during production.  You can also go to the Vermont Health Department website to ask questions about flame resistant chemicals.

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