Flame Retardant in Furniture Causes Concern

From: Robina Suwol
Date: 31 Jan 2002
Time: 13:50:29
Remote Name:


By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (January 30, 2002) 

A chemical flame retardant used in foam furniture padding is accumulating so rapidly in the breast milk of nursing mothers that environmentalists and some scientists are expressing concern, and Europe has moved to ban one form of it.

Little is known about the toxic nature of the chemical, polybrominated diphenyl ether, commonly known as PBDE. Early studies show it poses some of the same dangers as PCB's and DDT, two chemicals that were banned in the United States for their detrimental health effects. One form of PBDE will be banned next year in Europe, where new chemical agents must be proved safe before they can be used. 

United States law requires proof of harm or risk before a chemical is banned. The chemical industry argues that more research is needed before banning something that protects lives. Producers of PBDE say there is no evidence that it will ever reach harmful levels......... In 1998, Swedish scientists reported that levels of PBDE in breast milk had increased 40-fold since 1972. 

Users of PBDE could substitute another flame-retardant chemical in its place. But PBDE has properties other flame retardants do not, Mr. Campbell, the Great Lakes Chemical spokesman, said. It does not discolor foam or decrease its durability as much as other flame retardants do. And though all flame retardants evaporate into room air in trace amounts, PBDE does so at lower levels than many alternatives.

Last changed: October 24, 2006