Toxic Chemicals in Your Home: New Study Finds Hazardous Flame Retardants in Couches on the Rise

February 13, 2013
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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A recent peer-reviewed study by Duke University tested over 100 polyurethane foam samples from couches across the US and found that 85% contained potentially toxic or untested flame retardants. As these chemicals are released from our furniture in the form of microscopic dust, we inhale and ingest them constantly. Many flame retardants raise health concerns, including cancer, hormone disruption and harmful effects on brain development. The study found an increase in the use of flame retardants in newer couches, despite no data demonstrating fire safety benefit from their use.

On this call hosted by CHE-Alaska, lead author of the study, Dr. Heather M. Stapleton, discussed he study’s findings and health effects of toxic flame retardants, and Pamela K. Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics, provided an update on what’s happening at the state, federal and international levels to halt exposure to toxic flame retardants. We also discussed how these chemicals are accumulating in the Arctic and how they might affect human and environmental health.

Featured Speakers

Heather M. Stapleton, PhD, associate professor of Environmental Chemistry, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University. Dr. Stapleton's experience lies in the fate and transformation of organic contaminants in aquatic systems and indoor environments. Her research focuses on several types of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and brominated flame retardants, with a focus on polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

Pamela K. Miller, founder and director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. Ms. Miller is known for her work to prompt state, national and international chemicals policy reform to protect environmental and human health in the Arctic. She is a leader in Coming Clean, a national network of groups concerned about chemicals policy reform, and has been instrumental in prompting the ban of toxic chemicals worldwide. She also serves as principal investigator for community-based research projects in the Arctic supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.