There is a lot of information out there about fire retardants, but we've created a list of the top 20 things we believe you should know.
- “If the science shows these chemicals don’t even really work, why are we getting the potential risk and none of the benefit?” Toxic Hot Seat HBO documentary.
- Contrary to industry claims that flame retardants are safe, many hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies document their accumulation and/or harm in humans, animals, and the environment. This is acknowledged by our government - Dept BEIS.
- US and Europe have banned many of the FR chemicals. Manufacturers have the option of being FR-free and many retailers have insisted on that option (eg Macys, Ikea, Walmart Stores Inc and Pier).
- UK mattresses and sofas contain the highest levels of FRs in the world: 1-3KG in each mattress/sofa. This means that the UK public are exposed to the highest levels in the world.
- Many FRs are based on pesticides. There are hundreds of types of FR chemicals. Brominated, Halogenated, Chlorinated, PBDEs, HBCDs etc. As one FR chemical is banned, it is then replaced by a similar concoction, but mattresses containing these chemicals are not recalled from people’s homes. Some new FRs are Organophosphates also hazardous and untested on humans.
- These chemicals migrate out of products over time into air, dust and waterways and end up in humans, animals and the environment. A mattress or sofa is basically just a giant bellows blowing the FR dust out so it can be either breathed in by anyone in close proximity and, particularly by children, picked up on their hands and digested.
- Food Standards Agency says the high concentration of FRs in house dust is also contaminating food preparation within the home and is therefore being digested by the public at large.
- Many of the FRs commonly used in furniture are associated with adverse health impacts including hyperactivity, poorer neurodevelopment and lower IQ, hormone disruption, fertility problems and cancer (including thyroid and breast cancer).
- Many FRs are endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are synthetic chemicals with structural similarities to common hormones like oestrogen. As such, they mimic hormone action in the body, interfering with our metabolism and gene expression even at very low doses. During foetal development, infancy, puberty and at other times in life when our hormone systems are especially busy, these low-dose exposures can lead to significant and irreversible health effects, including neurobehavioral and cognitive changes.
- The back-coating of FRs on the mattress surface breaks down to powder form over a period of time – therefore quickly leaving the mattress without fire protection. All the FRs used within mattress fillings off-gas especially foams.
- Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP). The use of these chemicals in products further contributes to health and environmental harm at the end of useful life. This means that many mattresses will no longer be able to be disposed of in land-fill sites as they are considered hazardous waste and classed as POPs. Under the Stockholm Convention  high temperature incinerators will be needed to get rid of these chemicals – currently there are only 2 in the UK (according to the government) so the they are currently building more.
- Fire Retardants reduce the temperature of the burn, and therefore can increase the amounts of carbon monoxide and Hydrogen Cyanide in a smoke-filled room. This is a lethal concoction. Research shows that toxic fumes are released from furniture very soon after it catches light i.e. consumers are more likely to be killed by fumes than flames. Firefighters in the US were instrumental in banning the use of FRs due to the massive increase in cancer rates in firefighters linked to burning FR chemicals.
- Cotton will not pass the fire regulations without treatment or an FR interliner, so all UK mattresses using cotton ticking must contain FRs even if they claim to be organic or natural (except our Cottonsafe®). Most natural mattress are not ‘natural’ if they are sprayed with chemical FR’s.
- Natural Latex is highly flammable and classified as a foam and must be treated as such in terms of fire regulations i.e. cannot simply be wrapped in wool to pass the regulations.
- OEKO-TEX  certification means that SOME (but not all) of the harmful fire retardants are banned and OEKO-TEX certification does not mean that a mattress is FR chemical-free – according to their website Cetaflam® and Myflam® are just two used in the UK.
- Adding adhesive sprays, glues and stain treatment makes FR treated fabric flammable again.
- Since TV programmes such as ‘Fake Britain’ many fabric manufacturers responded by adding an additional 20% more FR chemicals, in an effort to meet the regulations. It is likely that the recent push by British Trade Organisations (One in four mattresses fail the regulations – Cabinet Maker Nov 2016) will have a similar impact.
- The FR chemical industry has a potential market of over £2bn for FRs/treatment in covers and interliners and that does not include the value of FRs in filling.
- Contrary to claims that lives have been saved due to FR chemicals, the numbers of people killed in fires in the UK has significantly decreased due to fire-alarms and safety education. Smokers’ materials (e.g. cigarettes, cigars or pipe tobacco) continue to cause by far the largest share of deaths in accidental dwelling fires. In 2013-14, smokers’ materials caused 80 deaths (37%). 41% of fire-related deaths were caused by the victim being overcome by gas, smoke or toxic fumes – by far the largest cause of deaths in house fires. In addition, 20% of deaths are caused by a combination of burns and being overcome by gas or fumes. The presence of flame retardants has been shown to increase the toxicity of fumes released in house fires, thereby reducing the capacity to escape a fire as a result of being overpowered by harmful fumes and gases.
- The Cancer Prevention Society, Greenpeace, Breast Cancer UK, Chem-Trust, Food Standards Agency, and the Sustainability Network for Standardisation along with the UK Fire Brigade Union Contaminates Group and European Furniture Industries Confederation (EFIC) are among those lobbying against FR’s in the UK, whilst the chemical companies, National Bed Federation and FIRA continue to support FR’s.
 See HBO’s TOXIC HOT SEAT Trailer – http://greensciencepolicy.org/toxic-hot-seat/. The award-winning 2012 Chicago Tribune investigative ‘Playing With Fire,’ TOXIC HOT SEAT threads together an intricate story of manipulation that details how Big Tobacco skilfully convinced fire safety officials to back a standard that, in effect, requires all furniture to be filled with toxic flame retardants. The film continues to untangle how the chemical companies obscure the risks to public health and misrepresent chemical safety data by paying ‘experts’ to alarm legislators and the public about the deadly risk of removing chemical flame retardants from US homes.
 Professor Stuart Harrad http://www2/mst.dk/Udgiv/publications/2016/01/978-87-93435-23-0.pdf
 Department of Business. Furniture Fire Regulations Consultation Document August 2014. Page 12 Point 21.
 Professor Richard Hull. Professor of Chemistry and Fire Science. 2016. University of Central Lancashire. He is internationally leading in Fire Science, with over 100 publications on fire retardancy and fire toxicity.
 Terry Edge (Ex-BIS) Independent Consultant