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Repair ripped furniture. Flame retardants are added to polyurethane foam filling in furniture, so mend any rips your couch or chair upholstery may have.

Visit the Toxic Flame Retardants page of the Safer States website. Safer States seeks to keep abreast of legislation on flame retardants and other toxic chemicals.

California’s furniture flammability standard has led to unparalleled and widespread exposures to flame retardants, illustrating how toxins can creep into our homes even through well-intentioned regulations.

A Silent Spring Institute study in 2006 provided evidence that a flammability standard unique to California—one that requires furniture to be fire resistant to an open flame for 12 seconds—led to an increased exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, which manufacturers had added to polyurethane furniture foam to meet the standard. That same year, California banned two commercial PBDE flame retardant mixtures, PentaBDE and OctaBDE.

In the study, which was published in 2008, the researchers found double the amount of penta-BDEs in the blood of California residents compared to the nationwide average. The scientists also found chemical ingredients of these commercial flame retardant mixtures in the dust of California homes at levels four to ten times greater than those elsewhere in the United States and 200 times higher than in Europe.

Penta-BDEs migrate out of furniture and end up in house dust, resulting in human exposure. Young children are especially vulnerable because of their close contact with the floor and frequent hand-to-mouth behavior. Animal studies have linked PBDEs to thyroid abnormalities, endocrine disruption, cancer, and learning disabilities.