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Study Finds Dangerous Flame Retardants in Children's Furniture

A new analysis of furniture made specifically for children has revealed that the majority of it contains toxic flame retardant chemicals.The study was conducted by the non-profit Center for Environmental Health and researchers at Duke University. They analyzed 42 children’s couches and chairs from big box retailers, and found that 90 percent of them contain flame retardant chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems.Advocacy groups argue these flame retardants don’t do what they’re supposed to do—namely, prevent fires—and have been linked to cancers, infertility and developmental problems.Elizabeth Crowe of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation was involved in this study, as well as an earlier one that found levels of the chemicals in regular couches. She says the presence of toxic flame retardants in children’s furniture is even more concerning.“Children are more vulnerable,” she said. “They spend more time on the floor. They put more things into their mouths. And as a result of that, plus they just breathe at a more rapid pace than adults, they tend to have a much higher body burden of these chemicals.”Crowe says it’s not enough to just require companies to label furniture that contains these toxic chemicals.“We can’t shop our way out of this problem,” she said. “The solutions really need to run much more deeply. It’s really not necessary to use these toxic chemicals in the first place. A much better strategy is to take them out and avoid the hazard altogether.”One way to reduce the risk to children from exposure to flame retardants is to vacuum furniture frequently to remove any dust that might build up.