CBC News - Household flame retardants potentially ineffective, dangerous

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November 28, 2012

Marketplace test discovers possible health hazards in furniture, electronics

Excerpt: Some chemical flame retardants used in home furnishings may not help in a house fire, and can pose health hazards, a CBC investigation has found.

A probe conducted by Marketplace tested the effectiveness of chemical retardants in upholstered furniture and also examined their potential health risks. Previous research has cast doubt on the retardants' ability to slow or stop fires, particularly in furniture foam.

Environmental and health researchers are also concerned that some of the chemicals are linked to a wide range of health problems.

Flame retardants are found in a wide array of household items, including upholstered furniture, electronics and children’s toys. The problem, says fire scientist Vyto Babrauskas, is that these supposed lifesavers have no benefit for the average consumer.

“It’s a really sad situation, because [consumers] get enough fire-retardant put in there to do toxic harm to the environment, to the people, and yet it’s not enough to do any good in terms of quenching the fire,” he says. “Flame retardants in the home do not help. That is regrettable, but true.”