Scientists From Many Nations Issue Warning About Flame Retardants

Scientists from around the world are raising concerns about the health effects of flame retardants commonly used in mattresses, electronics and other consumer goods. They also are questioning whether the substances even are effective in improving fire safety.

In a statement published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, 145 scientists from the U.S. and some 20 other countries warned that brominated and chlorinated flame retardants accumulate in the environment and the food chain, and when burned produce the highly toxic compounds known as dioxins and furans.

The scientists also said that the chemicals’ efficacy in preventing fires has not been proven.

The retardant chemicals also tend to leach out of products, and can therefore accumulate inside of homes. The compounds are widely used in electronic devices, raising concern about the impact on developing nations where electronic wastes are often dumped, the scientists said.

Safety advocates cheered the statement. “Scientists are cautious by nature, especially in saying anything that could influence public policy. It’s something we all need to take very seriously,” Andy Igrejas, director of the group Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, told the Center for Public Integrity. “It’s the latest example of scientists coming to consensus that we’ve been underestimating the harm from fairly common chemicals.”

The Center for Public Integrity also reported that the American Chemistry Council, the chemical manufacturers’ leading trade group, declined to respond to requests for comment.

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