The closest the author comes to accusing a specific flame retarded is chlorinated trisphosphates. You can go to the EPA and look up the safety record of these chemicals; long story short, you can give rats reproductive and kidney cancer if you feed them chlorinated tris every day for 2 years.
The article suggests that flame retardants do not slow down furniture fires in real world scenarios. The problem is that they are used in only the foam padding. The couch fabric is not treated. The foam itself appears to offer little resistance to fire if it is already covered in flames (like if fabric is on fire). This is where more research is needed.
If the chemicals don't slow down furniture fires and save lives, then there is no value to having them inside foam.
TDCPP might actually be on balance worth using; similarly, I think DDT probably is on balance worthwhile for some applications, and asbestos is still used for some purposes. It's all about tradeoffs, but it is easier to justify a tradeoff when the people paying the costs and receiving the benefits are the same. I get close to zero benefit from fire retardant foam in my couch, probably less than the financial cost of the chemicals.
(I am generally anti whacko unsubstantiated environmentalist/save-the-children activists, but I have some personal experience with PCB contaminated transformers; bleh.)
2. "Flame retardant" vs. "specific chemical": the article specifically cited recent research regarding PBDEs, why did you not consider this valid evidence?
"Researchers from the Center for Children’s Environmental Health, at Columbia University, measured a class of flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, in the umbilical-cord blood of 210 New York women and then followed their children’s neurological development over time. They found that those with the highest levels of prenatal exposure to flame retardants scored an average of five points lower on I.Q. tests than the children with lower exposures, an impact similar to the effect of lead exposure in early life."
Furthermore, the article made it clear that the ingredients of some flame retardants, such as Chemtura’s Firemaster 550 (apparently one of the most common flame retardants), are trade secrets. The study in (2) makes it clear it can take years to demonstrate an effect. So Chemtura can't even know if their product is safe but they're quite happy to sell it to you! Surely the logical conclusion is: beware.
3. Risk vs. Benefit.
Unfortunately, and this is the crux of the problem, it seems that unless one can afford to commission a couch and pay for laboratory analysis of the foam supplier's product, avoiding these substances is very difficult given the present legal situation. And that definitely seems a point worth fighting given the potential harm identified. If you want to risk poisoning your children for little apparent benefit, that's your choice, but it's unethical to make that choice for me.
The article mentions a letter from Chemtura saying that there were 1400 deaths from furniture fires in 1980 and only 600 in 2004.
So what that actually means is we've saved 800 or less lives a year for the past 3 decades while exposing basically the entire nation (and presumably a lot of non-nationals with exports) to a whole host of chemicals that we don't know the effect of because the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act declares that all substances are to be presumed safe.
I can't begin to understand how in the universe it is acceptable to subject everyone to "shit thrown together in a lab" and just assuming it's safe. It's unbelievable how often the USA makes laws like that. I presume because "regulation" is "bad for business"...regardless whether the products of business are killing people (albeit somewhat slowly in this case).
It just doesn't make sense.
PBDE's haven't been used for years.
The chronic carcinogenicity data for chlorinated tris is specific.
I know that this is hard, and it means effectively if there is such a burden of proof patents will expire long before it is met, but it's time to stop that cycle.