Groundbreaking Legal Agreement to End Use of Toxic Flame Retardant in Foam Furniture and Children’s Products
Today, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) announced groundbreaking legal agreements that for the first time aim for an end to the use of harmful flame retardant chemicals in foam furniture and children’s foam products from major companies. The agreement with Playtex (Energizer Personal Care), West Elm (Williams Sonoma), Britax and 11 other companies comes on the heels of implementation of a new California flammability standard that for the first time in decades gives companies easier ways to produce safer furniture made without flame retardant chemicals.
Meanwhile, Carpenter Company, a leading supplier of foam to the furniture and other industries with annual sales of $1.6 billion, told its customers this month that it will eliminate uses of flame retardant chemicals in products where they are no longer required. CEH has an ongoing legal case against Carpenter and expects to win a similar legally binding settlement with them.
“This agreement is a major victory for parents and other consumers who want furniture that provides true fire safety without any harmful flame retardant chemicals,” said Michael Green, executive director of CEH. “It’s long past time for an end to the serious health hazards posed by unnecessary and ineffective flame retardants. With the widespread changes in the industry, consumers should soon see stores offering flame retardant-free furniture and children’s products.”
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Under California consumer protection law, products with the flame retardant chlorinated Tris, which is known to the state to cause cancer, must carry a warning label. But furniture and children’s products often contain other harmful flame retardant chemicals that studies have linked to infertility, hormone disruption and other serious illnesses. The CEH legal settlement requires companies to end their use of chlorinated Tris and includes groundbreaking provisions that provide incentives if companies eliminate all harmful flame retardant chemicals from their products.
In a January 2014 letter to customers, Carpenter Company wrote it has “…elected to eliminate the use of fire retardant materials where they are not required in its products and has begun the process of reformulating those products to comply with the new standard. Carpenter Company is currently looking at an April 2014 date to finalize this transition….”
In December, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the chemical industry trade group that represents Albemarle, Chemtura and ICL, the leading makers of flame retardant chemicals, challenged the agreement between the companies and CEH. Although the ACC is not a party in the suit, it petitioned the court to intervene, claiming that the agreement was not in the public interest. Judge George C. Hernandez swiftly denied the ACC’s request.
“The ACC represents polluting chemical companies that have contaminated our bodies and our environment for decades,” said Green. “These companies have proven for decades that they will go to any lengths to maintain their profits. It’s time to get these dangerous and ineffective chemicals out of our furniture and children’s products for good.”
In January, new California furniture flammability standards came into effect, allowing companies for the first time in 40 years easy ways to meet such standards without the use of harmful flame retardant chemicals. But companies are not required to meet the new standard until January 2015, and the standard does not prohibit the use of chemical flame retardants. Thus, it may be difficult for consumers to know when products still contain the harmful chemicals.
CEH forged the settlement with the goal of addressing this problem. Under the agreement with CEH, companies have a financial incentive to report their progress in eliminating all flame retardant chemicals.
The settlements were approved by Judge Hernandez in Alameda County Superior Court on Friday, Jan. 24 (case numbers RG-13683725 and RG-13667688).
The following is a list of settling defendants (brand name, if different, in parentheses). CEH will continually update the list on their website as companies report their progress.
Belnick (Flash Furniture)
The Children’s Factory
Comfort Products (Relaxzen)
Delta Children's Products
Dex Products (dexbaby)
Energizer Personal Care (Playtex)
Foundations Worldwide (Foundations)
Stork Craft (Hampton)
Victory Land (Jaclyn Smith)
Williams Sonoma (West Elm)
Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.
By Jessica Corbett
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
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Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
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An extremely rare North Atlantic right whale calf was found dead off the North Carolina coast on Friday.
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