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Makers of Flame Retardants Manipulate Research Findings

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Did you know that federal law requires mattresses to pass vigorous open-flame flammability tests?  These tests are usually passed with the use of chemical flame retardants.  It is a proven fact that chemical flame-retardants offgas volatile organic compounds (VOCs).   Knowing that, are these flame retardants really helping? An article written by Sam Roe and Patricia Callahan for the Chicago Tribune discusses how research was manipulated by chemical companies to increase the need for the flame retardants.  Included is an interview with the study’s lead author, Vytenis Babrauskas.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

 CHICAGO — Twenty-five years ago, scientists gathered in a cramped government laboratory and set fire to specially designed chairs, TVs and electrical cables packed with flame retardants For the next half-hour, they carefully measured how much the chemicals slowed the blaze.

It was one of the largest studies of its kind, and the chemical industry seized upon it, claiming the results showed that flame retardants gave people a 15-fold increase in time to escape fires.

Manufacturers of flame retardants would repeatedly point to this government study as key proof that these toxic chemicals – embedded in many common household items – prevented residential fires and saved lives.

But the study’s lead author, Vytenis Babrauskas, told the Chicago Tribune that industry officials have “grossly distorted” the findings of his research, which was not based on real-world conditions. The small amounts of flame retardants in typical home furnishings, he said, offer little to no fire protection.

“Industry has used this study in ways that are improper and untruthful,” he said.

The misuse of Babrauskas’ work is but one example of how the chemical industry has manipulated scientific findings to promote the widespread use of flame retardants and downplay the health risks, a Tribune investigation shows. The industry has twisted research results, ignored findings that run counter to their aims and passed off biased, industry-funded reports as rigorous science.

As a result, the chemical industry successfully distorted the basic knowledge about toxic chemicals that are used in consumer products and linked to serious health problems, including cancer, developmental problems, neurological deficits and impaired fertility.

Industry has disseminated misleading research findings so frequently that they essentially have been adopted as fact. They have been cited by consultants, think tanks, regulators and Wikipedia, and have shaped the worldwide debate about the safety of flame retardants.

One series of studies financed by the chemical industry concluded that flame retardants prevent deadly fires, reduce pollutants and save society millions of dollars.

The main basis for these broad claims? A scientific report so obscure that it is available only in Swedish.

When the Tribune obtained a copy and translated it, the report revealed that many of industry’s wide-ranging claims can be traced to information regarding just eight TV fires in western Stockholm more than 15 years ago.

Although industries often try to spin scientific findings on the safety and effectiveness of their products, the tactics employed by flame retardant manufacturers stand out.

Tom Muir, a Canadian government research analyst for 30 years, called the broad claims based on the eight Stockholm TV fires “the worst example I have ever seen of deliberate misinformation and distortion.”

The American Chemistry Council, the leading trade group for the industry, said flame retardants are safe products that help protect life and property. “ACC’s work is grounded in scientific evidence, as we believe regulatory decisions related to chemistry must be evaluated on a scientific basis,” the trade group said in a written statement.

But when the Tribune asked the trade group to provide research that showed flame retardants are effective, the council initially provided only one study – the one Babrauskas wrote and now says is being distorted by industry.

The full article is available HERE.

OMI has developed a system that allows us to use Naturally Safer® wool as our only flame retardant. As a result, our mattresses are able to pass federal flame tests without the use of toxic chemicals or silica barriers.  To use any form of chemical flame retardant in our products would violate our ethical standards and integrity.  We stand by our purity so you and your family can have a safer place to rest your head at night.

Keep watching this blog for more information on mattress flammability laws and how we pass them.

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5 responses »

  1. Pingback: Pulling the Wool Over Your Eyes « OrganicPedic by OMI

  2. Pingback: naturallysaferproducts.com » Pulling the Wool Over Your Eyes «

  3. The reason I searched for and bought an organic mattress with wool, organic cotton and organic latex is partially because of the flame retardants in other products.

    I needed a new mattress anyway, as my old mattress was purchased more than 50 years ago. But I did not want a mattress made out of synthetic petrochemical materials.

    After I fractured my spine last year, my husband purchased a leather recliner, which while for comfortable, was made of some material that made me cough a dry hacking cough all night, and made my hoarse all day. It was a very unhealthy situation because I was lacking in sleep and my spine was painful every time I coughed.

    As I did papers research, I learned the materials used to make mattresses, sofa, the recliner, and other bits of furniture –urea formaldehyde. Not a chemical I wanted in my home, much less where I spent at least 8 hours a day. But there were other toxic chemicals in the mattress, including extremely toxic flame retardants that were damaging our health.

    We do not smoke, so there is less of a reason for a fire inside. There must be materials that either burn at a lower temperature or are not toxic. Eventually I discovered OMI.

    I love my healthy mattress materials. The coughing disappeared with disposal of toxic materials, and the entry of materials that sustain life and health.

    However, my problem now is that I need a more firm –a medium firm –mattress, and mine is “plush”. I do not want to purchase an entirely new mattress, but would be interested in retrofitting the one I have to make it more medium firm, so that my back can heal and I need to know HOW this can be done?

    Please answer my post.

    Susan Snow
    417 Brentwood Blvd.
    Lafayette, LA.
    sksnow@cox.net

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Should Americans Fear Their Furniture? | OrganicPedic by OMI

  5. I Actually not too long ago put in a steam shower unit,
    greatest item I have invested in in a long while, the children and relatives like it so much,
    unable to see us returning to normal showers again

    Reply

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