Thanks to California law TB 117 from 1975, the comfy recliner you like to crash into at the end of the day more so resembles a toxic dump than it does a relaxing chair. TB 117 required the foam in sofas, love seats, recliners, car seats, electronics, and insulation be treated with several pounds of flame retardants, which investigative reports suggest do not even work!
The Dangers of Flame Retardants

These chemicals — recognized globally as toxic contaminants — have been associated with reproductive disorders, cancer, immune dysfunction, hormone disruption, suppressed thyroid function, and serious damage to fetal and child brain development. Here are 11 facts you need to know to protect you and your loved ones from these dangerous, pervasive toxins.

1. Your Dust Bunnies Are Toxic

According to Duke University associate professor of environmental chemistry Heather Stapleton, “If you really look at what’s in your dust, particularly for some chemicals, it’s just as concentrated — or more — as what you’d find in sewage sludge.” [1] What she and many other researchers discovered is flame retardants like PBDEs and chlorinated tris escape from the foam and accumulate in dust. Dust bunnies, by their nature, collect greater amounts of these chemicals. The more of these guys around, the greater your toxic exposure.

2. The 2006 Ban on PBDEs Did Not Make Furniture Safe

Although PBDEs were supposedly banned in 2006, the chemical chosen to replace them is equally as dangerous. Chemical manufacturers reverted to using chlorinated tris (or TDCPP), a chemical banned from use in children’s pajamas in 1977 for its role in DNA mutations and cancer. Even the newer chemical known as V6 contains tris. Research shows chlorinated tris is more toxic than the pesticide chlorpyrifos, a known neurotoxin. [2]Tris remains as dangerous today as in 1977.

3. Baby Products Are Loaded with Flame Retardants

Tests on baby car seats, baby changing pads, and other foam baby products consistently reveal the presence of flame retardants. [3] Tris and a new chemical known as V6 (found to contain tris) on average make up 4.6% of the mass of the foam in baby products. [4] The best way to protect our little ones is to use and expose them to as few foam products as possible.

4. Children Have Higher Levels in Their Blood

Tests of children revealed three times higher levels of fire retardants than those found in their mothers. The reason for this is believed to be the fact that children play on the floor where dust and carpeting collect these fire retardants. This may explain the ever-increasing number of children suffering from hormonal and metabolic imbalances.

5. Flame Retardants Easily Cross the Placenta

Pregnant women need to be especially aware of exposure to flame retardants. Research has shown that PBDEs have no problems crossing the placenta, transferring its harmful effects from mother to fetus. PBDEs have been found in fetal blood samples in numerous tests with women chronically exposed to products that have been treated with flame retardants. [5] Observations of children with higher levels of PBDEs in their blood revealed greater incidences of hyperactivity and decreased learning and memory.

6. Promotes Male Infertility

Regular exposure to organophosphate flame retardants alter a man’s hormone levels, leading to poor semen quality and decreased sperm concentrations. [6] If you or a man you know feels tired and sluggish on a frequent basis, it might be time to get out of that comfy recliner.

7. Flame Retardants Are Concentrated On Airplanes

As expected, airplane foam contains extremely high levels of fire retardants. 100% of dust samples collected from airplanes contained most flame retardants, including TDCPP, or tris. Concentrations of another flame retardant, BDE 209, were several times higher than in residential or office settings. [7]

8. California Residents Have the Highest PBDE Levels in the US

It’s been known for a long time that Californians have the highest levels of PBDEs, tris, V6, and other flame retardants in their blood. Studies comparing PBDE levels in residents of California to those throughout the rest of the US found Californians had twice as much circulating in their blood. [8] Another study noted Mexican-American children living in California have significantly higher levels of PBDEs than other children living in Mexico. [9]

9. Chemical Manufacturers Don’t Care About Your Health

California law TB117 was changed at the end of 2013 making flame retardants in furniture and other foam items optional. In spite of the science showing the extreme danger posed to human health by flame retardants, chemical companies continue to lobby politicians to keep these chemicals in our furniture. If persuasion doesn’t work, they’ll sue to keep you inhaling this stuff. Chemtura, a global agro-chemical company, recently sued the State of California to block regulations which would allow for the manufacture of furniture without their chemicals. [10] Fortunately, the judge threw the case out of court. [11]

10. Blood Levels of Flame Retardants Continue to Increase

Despite chemical bans and efforts to reduce exposure to these toxic chemicals, the presence of these toxins continues to rise across the entire US population. It’s known to disrupt hormone activity in children, especially girls who may experience all sorts of reproductive health problems and severe hormonal imbalances. [12] We may never know the full impact of these chemicals, but we do know for certain we need to at least reduce our exposure.

9 Steps You Can Take to Protect Yourself and Your Family

It’s obvious we need to protect ourselves from the damaging effects of these toxic chemicals. Here are a few actions you can take to reduce your exposure and limit the damage:

  • Don’t buy furniture that carries a TB 117 label.
  • Vacuum carpets and furniture using a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Damp dust furniture and floors regularly.
  • Don’t eat on, around, or near your coach. Also, use wooden chairs without padding in your dining areas.
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after cleaning.
  • Buy naturally flame-resistant materials such as wool and cotton.
  • Ask your sales rep or the manufacturer about the presence of flame retardants in their products before you buy.
  • Regularly vacuum your car’s interior.
  • Let your Representative know you don’t want flame retardants in your furniture, clothes, or any product entering your home.
One Final Thought

It is almost impossible to avoid exposure to flame retardants these days. Reducing exposure by taking the steps above, consuming foods high in antioxidants, ensuring adequate iodine intake for hormone balance (many PBDEs lower the body’s iodine levels), and using high-quality supplements can also help. But whatever you do, take immediate action to protect against these toxins.

-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

Dr. Group’s article first appeared at

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