Toxic flame retardants are dangerous cancer-causing and brain-harming chemicals associated with adverse health effects including endocrine and thyroid disruption, as well as harmful impacts to the reproductive and nervous systems. These chemicals used in the plastic casings of electronics can escape from products and contaminate our homes, workplaces, and bodies.
In 2017, Toxic-Free Future published its first report with Clean Production Action revealing OFRs were commonly used in televisions at high concentrations. In May of 2019, advocates sent Best Buy a letter from more than 50 consumer and public health organizations calling on the company to act. A few months later, a 2019 scientific study led by Toxic-Free Future found organohalogen flame retardants in 100% of TVs tested, which were purchased from Best Buy and Amazon. Advocates also sent a letter to Amazon and launched a petition urging Best Buy to eliminate flame retardants from its products. In the spring of 2020, advocates sent letters to a dozen major television brands, such as Hisense, LG, Samsung, and SONY, urging them to restrict toxic flame retardants in televisions. In response, SONY and LG Electronics disclosed actions they were each taking on OFRs.
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No child or pregnant woman should be exposed to chemicals that may harm their health from televisions and other electronics they have in their homes. But the truth is that flame retardants escape from products and get into household dust and air and then into our bodies.
As one of the largest electronics retailers in the U.S. and the world, Best Buy has a responsibility to act and we are thankful that they took action on their private label TVs. We encourage Best Buy to continue getting these toxic flame retardants out of other electronics as well.
LDA is a proud member of Safer States and Mind the Store. Safer States shares the laws and proposed legislation by state on flame retardants and other chemicals. Mind the Store shares the TV study and our campaign to push retailers to sell products free of harmful chemicals, like flame retardants.
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In your home, flame retardants are emitted from upholstered furniture in the form of dust, and they can get on your hands when you use plastic electronic items such as your remote control. Flame retardants chemicals are harmful to your health, and they have not proven very effective at preventing fires. Reduce your exposure to flame retardant chemicals with these solutions:
Since the 1970s, flame retardant chemicals have been incorporated into furniture, carpet padding, insulation, electronics, and other products. At that time, in-home smoking was more prevalent, and electronics would often overheat. Thus, these chemicals were perceived as necessary. Flame retardant chemicals are added to products as an outdated method to meet government fire safety rules. Even though these chemicals do little, if anything, to slow or prevent fires.
Studies show flame retardants are accumulating in humans and the environment. These chemicals may disrupt brain development and thyroid function; affect learning, memory and attention; reduce IQ and sperm quality; and mimic estrogen.
Fire safety regulations for upholstered home furniture have changed to encourage other manufacturing methods which do not use these chemicals. Because of this change, and in response to consumer health concerns, many manufacturers have promised to stop adding flame retardant chemicals to polyurethane foam used in their products. There is also legislation barring and limiting manufacturers from using flame retardants in certain consumer products. In fact, flame retardant chemicals in furniture and certain children's products have been banned in San Francisco since 2019 and in California since 2020. Several other states are following suit as well.
Natural Resources Defense Council's explaining flame retardantsChicago Tribune's "Playing with Fire" series on how and why flame retardants are usedGreen Science Policy Institute's background on flame retardantsEnvironmental Health Perspectives' summary of widespread exposure to flame retardants 041b061a72