Conservation Minnesota

Good News on Toxic Flame Retardants!

Flame retardants can be found in furniture and children’s products.

Worried about toxic flame retardants in your furniture, televisions and baby products? Well, we’ve got some good news. Conservation Minnesota and Healthy Legacy have been working on state regulation to get these flame retardants (FRs) out of the products in our homes. We’ve also been working with retailers like Best Buy to develop chemical policies to restrict the use of toxic FRs. We know you’ll welcome some recent developments, showing progress in protecting our health from these harmful chemicals.

  • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission just announced steps to reduce exposure to organohalogen flame retardants. They will convene a scientific panel to provide advice as they develop rules to restrict these chemicals to protect public health. These proposed actions are a response to a petition filed by consumer, health, firefighter and science groups. Organohalogen flame retardants are chemicals that contain chlorine or bromine and the vast body of science confirms their toxicity to human health. Exposure to these chemicals is associated with adverse effects on brain development, behavioral problems, hormone disruption and even cancer.
  • The state of Rhode Island recently passed a ban on use of the same class of FRs (organohalogens) in furniture and children’s products. Also in 2017 the Maine legislature passed a bill to ban all flame retardants in furniture effective January 2019. Although the bill was vetoed by Governor LePage, the legislature voted overwhelmingly to override the veto. These additional state bans build on Minnesota’s Firefighter and Children Health Protection Act of 2015, which bans four toxic FRs in furniture and kids’ products. Although many children’s products and furniture manufacturers and retailers have phased out the use of FRs, state bans will assure that the marketplace will be free of these toxic and unnecessary chemicals, so consumers can rest easier.
  • Minnesota’s own Best Buy company is now leading the way on reducing FRs and other chemicals of concern in electronics. Toxic Free Future in Seattle tested 12 leading TV brands for the presence of six FRs in plastic enclosures. They found FRs in 11 of the 12 TVs tested and two of the TVs contained chemicals banned in five states. Eight TVs contained chemicals of high concern. The good news is the Best Buy Insignia brand TV that was tested contained no FRs in the enclosure. That’s because Best Buy piloted a new design with an external power source, eliminating the need to add FRs to the plastic enclosure. While Best Buy subsequently had to take that model off of the market in order to comply to new federal regulations, Best Buy has now adopted a new comprehensive chemicals policy. The policy addresses manufacturer chemical use reporting, restriction of chemicals of concern in both manufacturing and operations, compliance monitoring and transition to safer alternatives.  Best Buy, along with LG, are the only two companies that have taken significant steps to address toxic FRs in their products, according to the above-mentioned testing project. Six companies had no posted policy on chemicals and four had policies, but provided no clarity on policies regarding FRs in TVs.

It’s encouraging that the marketplace is moving in the right direction. But until we can be assured that all furniture and kids products are free of toxic flame retardants, consumers still need to look for products that are FR-free.  Check out our Flame Retardants Top Tips for Healthy Kids fact sheet.

About Kathleen Schuler

Kathleen Schuler
Kathleen Schuler manages the Healthy Kids and Families program. With degrees in sociology and public health, Kathleen is perfectly situated to serve as the Co-Director of the Healthy Legacy coalition, which is a statewide network of advocacy organizations working to eliminate toxic chemicals from common consumer products.
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