Furniture Flammability and Human Health
Flame retardants and other chemicals have been used for decades in the production of commercial and residential upholstered furniture and other consumer products. The human health risks associated with flame retardants have been well-documented. Studies have shown that exposure to some flame retardants can lead to health concerns, such as cancer, thyroid disruption, delayed mental and physical development, advanced puberty and reduced fertility.
Our first study examined and compared both chemical exposure and flammability characteristics of similar furniture from the U.S. and the U.K. Significant differences were found, most likely related to the use of flame retardants.
With the increased awareness in product flammability and chemical exposure, concerns of flame retardants, current discussions, and research continues on processes for reducing both fire and chemical exposure hazards. Our current research is assessing flame retardant exposure levels, routes of exposure and flammability characteristics of residential furniture that have been constructed with different materials and flame retardant usage.
During a recent summit, we brought stakeholders together to discuss this topic and review initial research results. Findings show differences in human flame retardant exposure and flammability performance from furniture made with and without flame retardants. The study also shows the presence of other chemicals that should be considered in evaluating chemical exposure risks. Study results are contributing to policy discussions on flammability regulations and initiatives to manufacture chemical-safe/fire-safe products.