Hallelujah! A new film about the struggle to understand and address the hidden poisons in our sofas — Toxic Hot Seat — airs for the first time tonight on HBO. Slate has a preview with a couple tantalizing clips. You can also see it on HBO-Go, the on-demand service.
This is exciting, as it appears it will tell the story the Chicago Tribune first unearthed over a year ago in its epic Playing with Fire series. In sum, flacks from the chemical industry lied to California lawmakers about the reasons babies were killed in household fires in order to guilt them into maintaining a requirement for toxic flame retardants in furniture. The Trib also unearthed seedy connections to Big Tobacco and ripped the mask off a “fire-safety” front group that had been backed by the chemical manufacturers.
As we now know, we’ve now poisoned a generation or two with these chemicals. One study showed 97 percent of Americans have flame retardant chemicals in their bloodstreams, which are linked to health risks including cancer, infertility, obesity, neurodevelopmental delays and even behavior issues and lowered IQ levels. In a tragically ironic twist, the brave men and women who protect us in fires have been hit particularly hard, and now can face dire health consequences from the exposures to toxic smoke.
The film comes on the heels of an excellent but frightening study published last week by the Center for Environmental Health, Playing on Poisons, that showed that 90 percent of children’s furniture is laced with flame retardant chemicals. Because they crawl around on dusty floors and put things in their mouths, studies show kids have higher levels in their bodies of these chemicals than adults do. Thankfully, even recent action in California to ban one class of flame retardants chemicals produced a precipitous drop in the chemical in pregnant women, as measured in September of this year.
I’m glad the word is getting out. I imagine we’ll see a lot more couches on curbs in the coming days. Parents should also toss those adorable fuzzy pjs (which are often sprayed with the chemicals), and replace them with old cotton clothes or tight-fitting cotton jammies. A full post on that is coming soon. And here’s more information — including tips to avoid flame retardants — from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
While it’s true that the California requirement is no longer on the books, many manufacturers will be slow to change their products, and there are state laws in many places requiring any public accommodations to purchase furniture containing flame retardant chemicals, as well as standards that require them in heavy doses in airplanes and children’s car seats. What we really need is chemical reform at the federal level to ensure that chemicals are tested thoroughly before we are all made into the guinea pigs of the chemical industry.
In the meantime, here’s my posts on this for folks new to the issue or blog:
- Ouch, Couch! A Sad Sofa Saga…Part 1
- Ouch, Couch! A Sad Sofa Saga… Part 2
- Sofa Saga, Part 3: Interview with Flame Retardants Expert, Heather Stapleton
- Sofa Saga, Part 4: Some Success! Two Great Sources for Greener Sofas
- Sofa Saga, Part 5: A Happy Place to Sit
- Burning Questions: An FAQ on Flame Retardants in Furniture
- Curb Alert: Free (Toxic) Sofa
- New Study Released Today Confirms: 85 Percent of Couches Contain Toxic Chemicals
- Must Read: Today’s Great New York Times Story on Toxic Sofas
- More Misadventures with Flame Retardants: So.Much.Fun.
- And now, for some things YOU can do on flame retardants…
- California Governor Brown Orders State to Change Flame Retardant Rule
- All Frothy Over Flame-Retardants in Foam
- Dear California, You Owe America a New Couch
- Must Read: The Chemical Industry’s Big Fat Liar on Flame Retardants
- Must Read: Flame Retardant Chemicals in my Gatorade??