SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- In an effort to protect public safety by reducing the use of
toxic flame retardants, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. directs state agencies to
revise flammability standards for upholstered furniture sold in the state.
Governor Brown has asked the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home
Furnishings and Thermal Insulation to review the state’s four-decade-old
flammability standards and recommend changes to reduce toxic flame retardants
while continuing to ensure fire safety.
“Toxic flame retardants are found in everything from high
chairs to couches and a growing body of evidence suggests that these chemicals
harm human health and the environment,” Governor Brown says. “We must find
better ways to meet fire safety standards by reducing and eliminating —
wherever possible — dangerous chemicals.”
Studies show that humans are at risk from exposure to toxic
chemicals used as flame retardants in upholstered furniture. A 2008 study by
the Environmental Working Group found that toddlers often have three times the
level of flame retardant chemicals in their bodies as their parents, and
California children have some of the highest levels of toxic flame retardants
in their bodies.
A peer-reviewed study by scientists at Cal/EPA found that
California women have much higher levels of toxic flame retardants in their
breast tissue than women in other states and countries. Researchers from the
Univ. of California, Berkeley found statistically significant associations
between flame retardant levels in the blood of California women and reduced
fertility. The researchers believe this link may result from alterations in
thyroid hormone levels after exposure to the chemicals.
Numerous studies demonstrate that firefighters have
significantly elevated rates of cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and
brain cancer. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and
Environmental Medicine concluded that firefighters have a significantly
elevated risk of cancer that may be attributed to toxic chemicals they inhale,
including flame retardants.
The guidelines in place now – Technical Bulletin 117 for
flammability standards – will be updated to reflect modern manufacturing
methods that can lower the use of harmful chemicals.