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Toxic sofas are a secret scandal (theguardian.com)
217 points by montalbano 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 107 comments



I'm the civil servant who was leading on the UK regs until 2015 when I was pushed out of the job for taking out a whistle-blower case. George Monbiot has done a good job overall and he asked me to clear the final draft. It's an immensely complicated mass of issues, with the hugely powerful flame retardant industry pulling the strings. They played a big part in setting up these Regulations in the first place; just like they did in the US. It's not going to get any better unless action is taken. Just yesterday, I met the civil servants currently responsible and under questioning, admitted they aren't going to change anything for at least another 9-12 years.


Any recommendations on how to more rapidly move the needle? Your work is appreciated!


For a long time I was written off by government and industry as a lone maverick with a chip on his shoulder. But things have changed a lot over the last year, first with the report by the Environmental Audit Committee in July which agreed with my findings and bollocked the Department for Business to get on with changing things. Second - and having massive effects behind the scenes but coming more into play - was the formation of a contaminants group in the FBU. The two guys behind it were outraged to discover only recently (and much of it from my website) that for 30 years they've been exposed to massively toxic fires without even been told about it by their management. Part of the problem there is corrupt fire safety officials in the pay of the flame retardant industry.

So in a short space of time, we've had people running for cover, resigning from committees and being axed from their jobs for corruption.

What else will move things on? Get your MP to write to the Department for Business. I met them yesterday and while they're crapping themselves about the attention that's now on them, they admitted that in effect they're not going to make any changes to these Regulations for another 9-12 years. I spelled out to them that that means we're going to continue poisoning our children as they sleep but these people have segmented minds and somehow avoid taking any responsiblity, concerned only about their careers and pension.


FBU = Fire Brigades Union


Thanks. A guy called Dave Sibert was for years the full time paid FBU rep for fire safety. He played a major role in blocking changes to the Furniture Regs, which would have hugely reduced flame retardants. It was pretty common knowledge he was in the pay of the industry; indeed, Matt Wrack of the FBU finally sacked Sibert for colluding with industry. The guy is a sociopath: he was actually prolonging a situation that poisons his own people on a daily basis, for personal profit.


Heavy claim against a named individual... can you back it up?


> Part of the problem there is corrupt fire safety officials in the pay of the flame retardant industry.

What's the evidence for this claim?


I provided some above. The names are well known within the fire sector and they've not denied it. There are two ex-firefighters on record (BBC interview, online records) who were heavily funded by the flame retardant industry to push for more of their chemicals in furniture and other products. One of them still operates: Mike Hagen. Both claim that they were not funded while in service but logic suggests at the very least they were sounded out before retiring. Another still in service is Paul Fuller - who regularly pushes for flame retardants in children's clothing. Then there's Sir Ken Knight who played a major role in blocking safety changes to the Furniture Regs that would have hugely reduced flame retardants. The same Sir Ken who signed off the Grenfell cladding as safe; and the same Sir Ken who was appointed Chair of the Grenfell independent experts panel and refused to even look at the role the faile furniture regs played in the fire.


I find your language extremely troubling. If I'm honest I'm struggling to take you seriously and it seems you are on a particularly self appointed mission. Which is fine. But things like

> but logic suggests at the very least they were sounded out before retiring.

Logic had little to do with it I fear. Secondly the UK tabloidesque vilification of public servants who leverage their expertise when their career is over is tiresome. That is not evidence of "corruption".


It really doesn't matter if you're struggling to take this seriously because key people do. I'm also not sure what exactly you mean be 'evidence', above what I've been reporting. People who are bribed are hardly likely to keep written records of the fact. But how about this: Matt Wrack, head of the FBU, told Prof. Anna Stec (who is reporting to the FBU on cancers in firefighters) that he'd sacked Dave Sibert for "colluding with the flame retardant industry". My mission is far from self-appointed: it's been appointed by many including a government select committee and the contaminants group in the FBU who I'm advisor to.


A simpler explanation is that firefighters - who spend their lives dealing with people who've had horrific burns - think that prevention of fire is important, and are not persuaded that fire retardant chemicals are unsafe, especially compared to the fire injuries they routinely see.


That is a simpler explanation and it's certainly true that firefighters want to see fires prevented. But the point is that they were historically persuaded that flame retardants are safe. They have recently discovered they're not and the new contaminants group is determined to remove them from home products like upholstered furniture.


Approving carcinogens for residential use.


How is that evidence of the claim?


The alternative is that they're just that evil, that they're doing it for the lolz. So no, it's not strict evidence.


Or they don’t believe the compounds are dangerous, or they don’t think they’re dangerous enough to outweigh the reduced risk of fires.


Yea that's the only option. And certainly a complete representation of what happened


I've heard a similar issue in the design of train furnishings. There was a large overhaul of fine retardant material after a tragic South Korean train disaster (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daegu_subway_fire).

I'm not sure what is the right call is in the train case, because they have the same toxicity issue, interesting to hear it in this context. It makes me wonder if there is more to this story given your allegations


Dumb question: I've just bought a foam mattress (in the UK). How do I know if it contains flame retardants?


Short answer: if you bought it in the UK, it contains flame retardants.

By law all soft furnishing must be treated with flame retardant chemicals in order to be eligible for sale.


The problem may be more widespread than first considered - flame retardant chemicals are mandated for large categories of children's sleepwear. Surely direct-to-skin contact (absorption?) is at least as great a threat as off-gassing chemicals from a sofa or mattress.


If it says "KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE" in red lettering on the label, it probably doesn't have flame retardants. Though there may be false positives to this test (but no false negatives), so preferably look for something like no flame retardants.


That's completely wrong. That label has nothing to do with flame retardants. Almost all UK furniture contains FRs but there is no law at the moment that requires manufacturers to list them or even say if they use them at all.


Yes, UK furniture almost always contains flame retardants but it isn't law that they have to use them. The Furniture Regs set performance requirements but don't stipulate how you meet them. It's just that using FRs is the cheapest route to compliance for manufacturers.


> they aren't going to change anything for at least another 9-12 years.

That's an oddly specific timeframe. Any reason for that? Is there an agreement that due to be renewed by then or something?


They held a workshop for stakeholders a couple of weeks ago. And while they tried to hide the time involved it broke down like this: 2 years for them to get their "essential safety requirements" in place (which is itself wildly optimistic, given they've essentially did that for over 11 years and say they're now starting again. Then the go to British Standards. The British Standards rep then butted in to say they will need 5 years (again, wildly optimistic). When I met them on Tuesday I said they will need to add another two to that for consultation and implementation, which they actually agreed with. That makes 9 years - at an absolute minimum. Industry will want 2 years run-in too, making 11. I'm saying more like 15 because given what they're trying to do, that's more realistic. In practice they're not planning to implement anything.


The worst part is that application of fire retardants was not a science based solution.

It was cigarette companies who lobbied pro fire retardants. People were setting furniture on fire while falling asleep with cig in hand. And instead of taking blame, they shifted focus and made the laws pass.


It's disgusting how much power is being given to corporations that do nothing but strictly harm the population. Not only is the tobacco industry directly harming people by selling them poison, but all the pollution being generated by waste (just look at the ground next time you're walking outside to see all the cigarette butts), and then they lobby to push for these retardants to be pushed onto the furnishing industry, increasing not only monetary costs for the end consumer, but as we see here, causing health issues as well.

This is a tax everyone is paying for some smokers to get their fix. Absolutely disgusting and despicable. Yet, no one has the guts to step up and shut down the entire industry. It's unfathomable to what extent greed makes humans behave.


> just look at the ground next time you're walking outside to see all the cigarette butts

Amusingly, this is more of a result of anti-tobacco campaigns. I have recently visited Prague and one of the things I noticed were the ashtrays everywhere and very few cigarette butts on the street. But in NYC, where I live, there are no ashtrays and so you get cigarette butts all over the place. Because smokers are not going to quit smoking simply because you removed all the ashtrays.


> Not only is the tobacco industry directly harming people by selling them poison

Everything's a poison depending on the dose. The same could be said for alcohol or junk food.

> just look at the ground next time you're walking outside to see all the cigarette butts

Or soda bottles or fast food wrappers or oil dripping from cars or...

> and then they lobby to push for these retardants to be pushed onto the furnishing industry

This is a result of TB117 being signed by CA gov Jerry Brown in 1975 [1], more than 10 years after the surgeon general's report about cigarettes and lung cancer. If any lobbyists are to blame I would tend to look at the chemical companies.

What's more, California required the retardant, so furniture companies decided instead of making california-specific furniture, they'd put the retardant into all furniture. There's at least some blame on them as well.

> This is a tax everyone is paying for some smokers to get their fix.

I'd argue it's a tax everyone pays because California's government is/was run amok.

[1] https://www.kqed.org/science/11318/its-official-toxic-flame-...


> Everything's a poison depending on the dose. The same could be said for alcohol or junk food.

I mean, yea? The alcohol industry in the US and worldwide is kinda shameless in how much they reinforce overindulgence with their advertisements.

Junk food should absolutely have a tax, not a sin tax because it's bad - but a tax that brings in the currently externalized health costs that will come from eating it regularly.


This sounds a bit weird to me. Why do cigarette companies take blame for people who smoke and cause fires while falling asleep during it? Do we blame knife manufacturers when a cook cuts himself?


The cigarette companies use paper that doesn't stop burning when a drag hasn't been taken in a while, because it probably allows them to sell 5% more cigarettes (due to inattentive smokers.)

Note that I'm not saying here that they simply fail to use some technology or chemical that would cause a cigarette to burn out. They are doing the opposite; a hand-rolled cigarette burns out on its own.

Cigarette fires are usually caused when a smoker falls asleep while holding a cigarette.


Little rings of gunpowder in the paper to make it act like a fuse, that's nothing.

At one point tobacco companies developed non-addictive cigarettes and kept it a secret.

Source: A long time back a friend of mine's brother was part of a faux-jury assembled by tobacco company lawyers to do like a focus group to research how real juries in some real trial might think/feel. They revealed all kinds of stuff to these folks. They made them sign NDAs, of course, but he told us everything anyway. That was one of the things I remember: they made non-addictive cigs and kept it a secret.


carapace says>"Little rings of gunpowder in the paper to make it act like a fuse..."

There is no gunpowder in cigarettes:

https://www.verywellmind.com/big-tobaccos-list-of-599-cigare...

https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=27857

A non-addictive cigarette would have to have no nicotine b/c nicotine is addictive:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/toba...

"Source: A long time back a friend of mine's brother was part of a faux-jury assembled by tobacco company lawyers to do like a focus group to research how real juries in some real trial might think/feel."

Ycombinator post<--carapace<--friend<--brother<--faux-jury<--lawyers<--tobacco company

Even facts get changed when they're nested >5 levels deep in human networks.


especially if it had no nicotine, it could help people to stop smoking who miss the fidgeting or social aspect. e-cigarettes/vaping is really good for this, because you can taper down to 0mg liquid, keep vaping until you've kicked the nicotine, and then maybe months later try to stop all together


It's really not that surprising if you think about it. They have caffeine free coffee and alcohol free beer.

I suspect it would not do well as a product, all the downsides of smoking without the rewarding nicotine buzz. It would be interesting to learn more.


But we don’t sue Yankee Candle or the company that makes tea candles whenever someone falls asleep with those fires going. I don’t accept the jump in logic people used that caused the tobacco companies to need to fight these cases.

A person is holding something flammable without the respect it deserves. The human desperation to place blame needs to be restrained better.


People don't generally put candles on their furniture, cigarettes are often smoked on chairs.


According to the documentary "Merchants of Doubt," there were modifications that could be made to cigarette design to reduce the likelihood of causing a fire, but the companies resisted changing their products.


Do you remember what modifications were on the table? Kinda seems like a cigarette is a punk (in the pyrotechnic sense)... I'm having trouble seeing anything that would be effective without being annoying enough for people to work around.


By changing the formula for the paper, you can have a cigarette that will go out if you don't drag on it for 30-60s, just like a hand-rolled. But obviously that's bad for business..


> have a cigarette that will go out if you don't drag on it for 30-60s

Have you smoked a cigarette recently (as in at least the past 10 years)?. This is absolutely what they do. I'm not sure what the exact flame out time is for any particular brand, but it's a real drag (ahem) for people who like to smoke slowly, as the first re-lit hit feels very harsh.

According to Wikipedia[1] fire-safe cigarettes are required in all 50 states as of 2011. It's been awhile since I've smoked but I remember me and my friends bitching about the fire safe paper many years before that. We also theorized that it was making the cig more harsh in general. Of course we never had any evidence of this.

I might be wrong about this, but it seems to me that simple paper + tobacco hand rolled cigs natural behavior would be to not flame out, or do so much more slowly. What's stopping it from continuing to burn?

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_safe_cigarette#United_Sta...


Indeed I haven't smoked for a long long time. It seems that they were implemented end of 2011 in the EU

For hand rolled I'm not sure, I just remember that they would go out much easier, whatever is rolled inside of them


The US is not the UK.


But it still is/was/whatever in EU, where the self extinguishing cigarettes are also mandatory.


I believe that's mandated now in the EU. Cigarettes will stop burning if left alone for a few minutes. Very annoying for inattentive smokers. But I'm not sure how much of an effect that had on fires.


This is a false equivalency. Cooks are not chemically addicted to food in the same way smokers are chemically addicted to cigarettes. Practically speaking, cooks usually only use knives in rooms/places with food. Smokers could be smoking anywhere.

When my apartment building nearly caught fire because someone two buildings over fell asleep with a cigarette in hand, killed themselves, and burned down two other apartments, of course people wondered why cigarettes don't burn out on their own when you stop taking drags.


Should candle manufacturers be held responsible when someone burns their place down because they left a candle burning or put it near flammable material or knocked it over?


It's all about negligence and what you can prove in a court of law (or settle for in arbitration these days). A person taking an open flame and leaving it unattended or not monitoring it, is negligent in the eyes of most people (aka jurors). There is a reasonable expectation that an open flame is going to cause a fire if expose to combustable material.

But what about a person dropping a lit cigarette on a couch (either sleeping or not). A cigarette isn't an open flame so the above doesn't apply. Is there a reasonable expectation that a lit cigarette would cause a couch to catch on fire? If there is, and a jury agreed, then the person who dropped it would be negligent.

But I would expect said person's lawyer to show that a standard cigarette dropped on a couch would not and could not cause a fire. But cigarettes manufactured by company X are treated with chemical Y in order to make them non-standard. And while the client may be partially negligent (for dropping the cigarette or falling asleep), the manufacture is also partially negligent for (knowingly) adding fire sustaining chemicals to an otherwise standard cigarette. If the cigarette manufacturer could prove that a standard cigarette would catch a couch on fire, and the knowledge of this was obvious to a standard person, then the person would be 100% negligent.


Candles pose risk, but otherwise serve a useful purpose.


So do cigarettes, nominally-- they are one of the only legal stimulants on the market.


Fire is no longer necessary for consumption of the drug, though. Not that I think it wise to consume nicotine...


Never was. Nicotine gum and oils were available for a long long time, same with chewable and insufflable tobacco.


It isn't that they took the blame so much as they wanted to take one blame off their customer and thus remove one incentive that those customers would have to give up their products. Also it is their customers most likely to die in such a fire.

That is what I would assume anyway, I'm not in the industry.


The same reason cyclists are at fault for not wearing high-vis clothing or helmets.


When people do stupid things it is good if the don’t die. Car safety is an area that come to mind, and that slowly pushes forward with mechanisms for saving people.


A careless cook is unlikely to injure others, whereas a careless smoker could burn down the entire apartment complex.

Based on the American principle of jurisprudence commonly known as "sue the one with the most money", the families of those burnt-up people would probably go after the cigarette manufacturer.

The smoker, after all, would probably not routinely have burning embers smoldering in their home without the cigarette, would not be careless with fire without the casual familiarity with the burning cigarette, and would not be smoking at all without the addictive herbs and chemicals added to the cigarette by the manufacturer.

Imagine if a firearms manufacturer used television and movies to promote the idea that frequently firing live rounds in your own home was a fun and relaxing activity that is completely normal and acceptable (like Elvis shooting his television--free endorsement!). And occasionally someone might die from overpenetration. Gunmakers would then probably promote something like aramid or kevlar fabric wallboard sheathing, too, for more bullet-resistant walls. Arms companies have not, in fact, done anything quite that careless, yet they still get sued occasionally when gun owners are negligent. Not because they deserve the blame; because they have the most money.

If that knife manufacturer had deep pockets, you can bet your ass that eventually some clumsy cook would sue them.


I mean, most companies manufacturing kitchen knives seem to be valued a lot higher than Glock or Remington for example, who have both been sued.


The title is too clickbaity for such an interesting article otherwise. The fire retardants (and their problems/limitations) themselves are more interesting of a topic than the whole Brexit/EU spin that the title is trying to bait with.

It is like someone tried to write an interesting article then someone else came along and said "How can be mix Brexit into this?" Particularly as this issue has been well known for over ten years, long before Brexit was a realistic thing and the UK solo could have done something without the EU if it had wanted.


No matter how you think about the EU, this new structure above european individual nations has shaken up and successfully confronted many national lobby groups and special interests. Every country may have it's weirdness, but, for example, the fire retardant lobby couldn't extend their BS over all of Europe.

One aspect of Brexit could very well be national lobbyists wanting their control back.

Strategically buring news with other events that are higher priority in the news cycle is nothing new and worth pointing out.


Much as I like the Guardian, it seems that every single article they publish now has to mention Brexit in some way shape or form.


But it is connected. Dropping EU standards means the UK has to decide afresh on many such issues.


Mention Brexit and Trump, apparently.

That last paragraph was weird.


It's like the NY Times and Trump.

"Kids not eating their vegetables? Thank Trump for that"


> the UK solo could have done something without the EU if it had wanted.

Could it? Wouldn’t one EU state banning products from sale due to the presence of chemicals not banned elsewhere in the EU, not go against the point of the Common Market?


No. Each EU state enacts their own versions of EU regulation, including variances. This is already the case with multiple food items, video games (Germany), animal products, electrical systems, and furniture standards.

The common market is a trade alliance with some regulatory back-stops. In this case if the UK banned these chemicals and required a safer flame retardant, it would likely be legal elsewhere in the EU anyway because as the article says the currently regulations are too vague on WHAT can be used (so manufacturers use the cheapest).

Obviously none of which matters with Brexit. But historically the UK absolutely could have acted alone, as can other EU countries today.


Yup, which is a central core to the tragedy of how the EU was [mis-] sold to the UK populace and the idea of Brexit allowed to creep in over decades of gradual negative sublimation in the tabloid / right-wing press.

We've always been free to choose much of our own course (blue passports anyone?), and we've also been as free as other EU states to break rules when it suited us. Beyond that, we were a part of the dialogue and could've pushed our points in within the European context. Instead we had the likes of Farage taking up seats in the EU parliament and adding absolutely nothing useful.

And so, the various vying frontline political factions in Westminster managed to pin much of the discontent in the UK's political landscape on the EU, not itself.

- ed clarified a line by adding '/ right wing'


Sorry for forgetting the source, but I learned recently that the person that writes the article does not choose the headline, generally.


For context, George Monbiot, is a left wing political activist who's "journalism" generally consists of stretching half truths in some way or other try and discredit the government any which way he pleases.

Note also this isn't published in the news section but in the opinion section. Read into that what you will.

A quick google will reveal the level of gibberish allowed under this editorial section.

Edit: downvotes? Is this Reddit?


No matter your personal views (ad hominem?) regarding the author, the article makes a number of relevant points. The issue was raised last year in parliament but disappeared intentionally or accidentally in the Brexit maelstrom.


You can see in about 4 places in the "opinion piece" he's trying to paint a picture of conspiratorial levels of capitalist and legislative corruption. It very very much is relevant to reading the article and given much of the audience here may not be British they might not pick up on the context or think the author is impartial or respected


I think this comment from the original article sums things up nicely:

"The 1988 regs are a total mess. They work for no one except the chemicals manufacturers and the most slapdash furniture manufacturers. They could be described as either over-regulation or under-regulation. In either case, it's the wrong regulation. But because they have created a certain kind of industry, that industry, with its sunk costs and established interests, wants them to stay as they are. And despite years of handwaving and consultations that go nowhere, governments have obliged."


This article does a terrible job of explaining the specific threat. A few paragraphs in, buried, is this:

> ... It took until last year for mattresses and furniture containing the highly toxic retardant deca-BDE to be banned, under European law, from sale. ...

If that's the threat, then Wikipedia has a long way to catch up:

> In 2004, ATSDR wrote "Nothing definite is known about the health effects of PBDEs in people. Practically all of the available information is from studies of laboratory animals. Animal studies indicate that commercial decaBDE mixtures are generally much less toxic than the products containing lower brominated PBDEs. Because of its very different toxicity, decaBDE is expected to have relatively little effect on the health of humans."[5] Based on animal studies, the possible health effects of decaBDE in humans involve the liver, thyroid, reproductive/developmental effects, and neurological effects.[25]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decabromodiphenyl_ether


Take a look at the Acknowledgement in that report, i.e the flame retardant industry funded it. There are numerous studies into the ill effects of DecaBDE and the fact it's been banned suggest these are well-founded. The flame retardant industry always hides behind their argument that you can't say that cancer was caused by that chemical. Even if that was true, the precautionary principle suggests not using them, especially when there is no evidence they improve fire safety.

"The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency gratefully acknowledges the efforts of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group and the Bromine Science and Environmental Forum to provide the Agency with important information regarding the polybrominated diphenyl ethers, especially decabromodiphenyl ether, in meetings on July 25, 2005 and September 8, 2005, respectively, and through personal contacts. The information provided is greatly appreciated."


I mean, look at how they framed the article...that this is a scandal because of Brexit...because Brexit is designed to hide corruption.

Even though the wheels started turning on all of this a few years ago. Even though the EU themselves only banned things in the last year.

Rather than jumping into the actual story, they used it to push an entirely unrelated political narrative. Worse still, a lot of folks are going to see those first two paragraphs and not read the rest of the article.


There is probably some truth though that government is to a degree hoping that Brexit will sort out the mess that is the UK's furniture regulations, i.e. that the officials concerned can cover their backs by allowing industry to replace the regs with codes of practice that will they hope keep flame retardant levels up - something that would have been harder to do in the EU.


I could see that being the case, but that's not a conjecture that I would lead my story with.

That kind of journalism is really divisive and irresponsible, IMO.


So where can people buy sofas and beds without these chemicals? I recently asked about this at Restoration Hardware (an expensive furniture store), and they had no idea about it.


In the US, Avocado Mattress uses wool[0] instead of a chemical fire retardant.

[0] -- https://service.avocadogreenmattress.com/hc/en-us/articles/3...


In California, most furniture now appears to have a label that indicates whether flame retardants were used. Sadly, this is quite recent, and CA more or less required flame retardants until a couple years ago.


I wonder if they are still labeled with some form of “known by the state of California to contain carcinogens”? Those are more than a touch concerning as a visitor, although you soon notice that they are on everything.


Yeah, as someone who recently began spending more time in California, those signs are inadequate and completely ignored by everyone. It should be specific, which carcinogen in which part of the product is used, and why.


Not everything. There is an entire market for products that don’t need this label :)


In the UK plenty of mid to high end pocket sprung mattresses are flame retardant free. John Lewis specify whether they have retardants or not.

I'll be buying a new sofa this year so I'm keenly interested on the sofa side. It seems that Ikea are the only company that make nicely designed not incredibly expensive sofas. Will look at vintage as well.


All mass produced furniture has them. The only way to avoid is to find the last few vendors that build-to-order items like sofas, but then we're talking ultra-premium tier pricing (and are rare).

Even the new flame retardant that they're using to replace the old one is considered dangerous. So there's no end in near sight to this problem. I don't know of a realistic/affordable solution for normal consumers, even with knowledge of the problem.


I believe Room and Board offers sofas without toxic flame retardants


At least in the US I think you'd have to make it yourself.

I believe that mattresses are somehow exempt in the US? So the futon becomes a weird gray area. You can buy one with the express intent of using it only as a couch, but you put a mattress on it. I'm not 100% sure to be honest.


A few years back I bought a sofa from a small manufacturer that claimed it was free of fire retardants. Similar story for my mattress. The mattress side took some research, but from what I found most foam mattresses are free of them, and some manufacturers use a tightly woven cotton cover to get the fire retardant properties, rather than a cover treated with fire retardant chemicals.

Do your own research, but from what I found it’s not too hard to be careful about this stuff.


Looks like IKEA doesn't use brominated flame retardants.

https://www.ikea.com/us/en/files/pdf/5c/df/5cdf003d/ikea_faq...

The underlying problem here is that furniture doesn't need flame retardants, period. You wind up with this weird mouse & cat game. A drive to replace one additive just find something new, previously unknown, and possibly worse.

For example banning lead additives from gasoline was a good thing. It was replaced with MTBE which causes to groundwater contamination. This has now been banned in the US, which ironically sees ethanol replacing it. Ethanol production obviously predates gasoline, so it could have been used all along.


In the Bay Area, my wife was also concerned about the brominated fire-retardants and found a manufacturer in Marin that use latex foam and wool toppers to make mattresses. We ordered one for us (custom dimensions for a European bed) and one for our daughter. We also had them make cushions for our couch: the frame is rattan so no stuffing or fabric, then we just put the old covers over the new cushions. They are all comfortable and free of chemicals. The downsides are they are expensive and heavy (takes 2 people to move the twin mattress). However, this was over 10 years ago, and I don't remember the name of the company.


I bought a mattress that is made purely of wool and nothing else. There is an "eco-mattress" market that has a number of companies making such products. Wool is also naturally somewhat flame-retardant too.


Ashley Homestore has a bunch of great sofas without those chemicals. For mattresses, look for online retailers selling latex mattresses.


Just looked it up for the brand of mattress I have, according to https://casper.com/faqs/the-mattress/are-there-chemical-fire... they do not use any


Room and Board


"According to parliament’s environmental audit committee (EAC), mothers in the UK and the US have the world’s highest recorded concentrations of a toxic class of flame retardants in their breastmilk"

So this is a US thing too or what? I couldn't find anything else in the article mentioning the US.



I imagine true of couches; certainly true of mattresses, per 16 CFR Part 1633, Standard for the Flammability (Open Flame) of Mattress Sets.

At least one company sells nontoxic mattresses: https://www.nontoxicbeds.com/


This is an interesting and important topic buried under George Monbiot's usual political posturing and making any and every issue about Brexit.

An example of where EU hasn't regulated properly is somehow supposed to automatically be made worse leaving the EU?

He claims that the government is using Brexit as a distraction from this issue but then links to a parliamentary report as one of his primary sources. (I know parliament is not the same as the current government, but come on, this is not some kind of top-down conspiracy)

Regulations frequently butt up against eachother. Making something non-flammable and non-toxic is obviously not trivial. I would love to understand more about this because there is almost certainly something worth investigating here but can we please give this to anyone but George Monbiot to write about.


is there a way to get a list of flame retardant chemicals on a product?


This article is mostly FUD

This is particularly funny - "Edge contends that many of the deaths at Grenfell Tower were likely to have been caused by toxic emissions from furnishings"

But there are issues around this, and the way forward I think it getting pollution meters into peoples houses.

We need to reduce PM 2.5 but VOCs also seem important, allow people to measure these.

Start with the upper class and clean air, bottled water shows this is possible, make it cool.


Urethane foam, aka "solidified hydrocarbons" should probably be banned...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snlhECzj1E8

https://foursevenfive.com/blog/reason-foam-fails-2-unaccepta...


Side note, what about carpets? Admittedly I haven't read the article fully yet, but does my apartment's carpet also contain flame-retardants?


Any information about the usage of these chemicals in Australia?



Haven't flame retardants in clothing been banned?


I gave up on this article right away after the first paragraph hamfistedly tried to make it a brexit issue. I don't even have an opinion on brexit, but I have no faith in journalism that leads with something like that.




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