Flame retardant chemicals in every eight out of 10 couches are linked to heightened cancer risk, according to a new UC Berkeley and Duke University study. The flame retardant chemicals have also reportedly been linked to developmental delays in children, the North County Times reports.
University researchers also found an increase in the number of couches American consumers purchased that contained flame retardants, USA Today reports. California is currently the only state that has regulations relating to the use of such chemicals. The study found that a total of 75 percent of couches purchased before 2005 contain fire retardant chemicals. The percentage jumped to 93 percent when couches bought after 2005 were included in the research study.
The most common chemical found in the couches was Tris phosphate. The flame retardant is repoteldy known to cause cancer. University researches reportedly collected foam samples from 102 couches purchased from 1985 to 2010. A total of 85 percent of the samples contained a flame retardant chemical. The study also found that the chemicals leech away from the foam and mix with standard household dust. Individuals, toddlers in particular, can ingest the substance via hand-to-mouth contact.
Green Science Policy Institute founder Arlene Blum had this to say about the flame retardant couch study:
“I didn’t expect to find such a high percentage of furniture bought outside of California to meet the standard It’s led to the use of more toxic chemicals.”
California Governor Jerry Brown recently tasked officials to revise the state’s Technical Bulletin 117. The bulletin guidelines require that furniture foam be resistant to combustion when to exposed to fire for 12 seconds. The updates to the mandate are expected to require couch upholstery to resist combustion when it comes into contact with a smoldering cigarette. The change would reportedly allow couches to meet the fire safety standards as they are currently manufactured without adding more chemicals to the cushion foam.
Fire safety engineer Vytenis Babrauskas had this to say about the study:
“The fire just laughs at these chemicals. Given their toxicity, it’s really the worst of both worlds.”