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Local study finds toxic flame retardants in new TVs as CPSC advances toxin ban

Study by Toxic-Free Future found only 1 of the 12 televisions they had tested was free of  flame retardant chemicals raising concern. (KOMO Photo)

Chemicals used as fire retardants have been a hot button for decades.

Environmental health experts say some of the chemicals have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, learning disabilities and more.

Today the Consumer Product Safety Commission took a key step toward removing a class of flame retardant chemicals known as organohalogens, from certain categories of consumer products.

The CPSC voted to begin the rulemaking process that will ultimately ban the sale of the flame retardants in children's products, mattresses, furniture and electronic casings.

Today's CPSC vote coincides with the release of new research by Toxic-Free Future, which finds high levels of the chemicals in some brand new televisions.

"We selected 12 TVs and purchased them in Washington state," explained Toxic-Free Future's Science Director Erika Schreder.

The non-profit group says it purchased 12 different TV brands- some with major brand names, some brands are less known.

The team cut plastic samples from each TV casing, and shipped them to the Stapleton Laboratory at Duke University to be analysed for six flame retardants of high and moderate concern.

"We found flame retardants of high concern in 8 of the 12 TVs and levels were up to 33 percent by weight, in the plastic," Schreder said.

Environmental safety experts say the problem is the chemicals don't stay in the plastic. They're absorbed in dust.

"The chemicals that we're most concerned about, that we're finding in these TVs, do build up in our bodies," Schreder emphasized.

Karen Bowman, a member of the Washington State Nurses Association, says members of her organization have been working to help raise awareness about the health risks posed by the chemical flame retardants found in many products.

"We've done a lot of work on the flame retardants," said Bowman. "And we know that it's in breast milk, we know that it's in placenta, we know it causes learning disabilities. We're starting to see the uptick in these diseases that are strongly linked to flame retardants."

Toxic-Free Future says it's especially concerned that the analysis two of the TVs they purchased, showed a flame retardant known as Deca, which was banned in products sold in our state back in 2007.

Chemical manufacturers have previously pledged to reduce their production of Deca.

Consumer groups, firefighter organizations and individuals who petitioned the CPSC to ban organohalogens say the tighter federal rules will help protect consumers and firefighters against other chemicals being used that are just as bad.

The rule making process is lengthy, and involves convening a scientific panel to provide guidance and assistance to the CPSC staff, so don't expect the chemicals to go away overnight.

The CPSC meantime is urging manufacturers not to use the chemicals in question in the production of electronics, mattresses, furniture and childrens toys.

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