Flame retardant Tris and PentaBDE in couches may pose health risks

Tris – a chlorinated flame retardant that is considered a probable human carcinogen was found in more than half of all couches tested in a study. This potentially toxic or untested chemical flame retardants may pose risks to human health.

?Tris was phased out from use in baby pajamas back in 1977 because of its health risks, but it still showed up in 41 percent of the couch foam samples we tested,? said Heather Stapleton, associate professor of environmental chemistry at Duke?s Nicholas School of the Environment.

More manufacturers in recent years are treating their couches? foam padding with chemical flame retardants to adhere to California Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117), she said. TB 177 requires all residential furniture sold in California to withstand a 12-second exposure to a small open flame without igniting, to help reduce deaths and injuries from accidental home fires. Over the years, the statewide standard essentially has become a de facto national standard, due to the economic importance of the California market.

Stapleton and her colleagues analyzed 102 polyurethane foam samples from couches purchased for home use in the United States between 1985 and 2010. They published their findings in a peer-reviewed study released in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In addition to finding Tris, the tests revealed that 17 percent of the foam samples contained the flame-retardant pentaBDE, which is banned in 172 countries and 12 U.S. states and was voluntarily phased out by U.S manufacturers in 2005.

PentaBDE and Tris were the only flame retardants found in couches purchased before 2005. After 2005, Tris was the most common flame retardant found. In addition, Stapleton and her colleagues identified two new flame-retardant chemical mixtures in more recently purchases couches for which there is little or no health data available.

?Overall, we detected flame-retardant chemicals in 85 percent of the couches we tested and in 94 percent of those purchased after 2005,? Stapleton said. ?More than half of all samples, regardless of the age of the couch, contained flame retardants that are potentially toxic or have undergone little or no independent testing for human health risks.?

Source: Nicholas School of the Environment, USA



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