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CPSC to manufacturers: Toxic flame retardants ill advised in mattresses, TVs, furniture

A toxic class of chemical flame retardants known as OFRs is used in making many mattresses, mattress pads and common consumer products.  KOMO photo 

Federal regulators urged manufacturers Thursday to stop using hazardous flame retardants that are known to cause health problems.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission also issued a warning to consumers- try to avoid buying products that contain flame retardants known as OFRs.

The technical name of the chemical additives is Non-Polymeric Organohalogen Flame Retardants.

In the warning, the CPSC acknowledges that known adverse health affects include reproductive impairment, decreasted IQ in children, impaired memory, learning deficits, cancer and immune disorders.

Some of the chemical flame retardants in question could well be in your bed. They're often added during the manufacture of mattresses, and mattress pads. They're also found in the plastic casings surrounding many televisions and electronics.

Numerous studies have shown the toxins leach out of products and get into house dust, which in turn enters our systems when we breath them or transfer them to our mouths.

"It's found in so many things that we eat, and in our furniture, it's literally everywhere.", said Karen Bowman with the Washington State Nurses Association.

"As consumers, we can't shop our way out of this problem." said Toxic Free Future scientist Erika Schreder

Local health and safety advocates, who just released their own flame retardant study, say without stronger regulation and enforcement, the safeguards for consumers are limited.

"There are some things that we can do in our homes, which mostly have to do with frequent wet dusting, vacuuming," Schreder said. "And hand washing turns out to be very important in reducing our exposure."

Schreder adds consumers should also seek out retailers that are publicly committed to avoiding the purchase or sale of consumer products made with harmful chemicals that are known to pose a health threat.

Today's CPSC warning features what the agency calls a "guidance". That's essentially an instruction to businesses to eliminate Organohalogenated Flame Retardants- commonly called OFRs- from products we use in our homes every day.

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