Sustainable Design +

Why Flame Retardant-Free?

To meet certain flammability standards, flame retardant chemicals are added to a wide range of products, including computers, couches, hospital beds, waiting room chairs, and hospital privacy curtains. Unfortunately, many of these flame retardant chemicals do not remain in the product and slowly off-gas into the air, dust, and water, eventually entering the food chain and building up in our bodies. Many flame retardants are linked to a range of negative health effects. Levels of toxic flame retardants in people have already reached levels of concern. Depending on the flame retardant, effects include reproductive, neurocognitive, and immune system impacts, among others. Three common flame retardants appear on California’s Proposition 65 list as human carcinogens.

Graphic of leaf symbolizing flame retardant-free products

Brominated flame retardants are used as additives to products to reduce the risk and inhibit the spread of fire. Testing has shown that brominated flame retardants are toxic and have the potential to disrupt fetal development. It has also been demonstrated that these brominated chemicals bioaccumulate in the human body. Levels of toxic flame retardants in people have already reached levels of concern.

Recent research on one class of brominated flame retardants, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, shows that PBDE exposure can interrupt brain development in mice, permanently impairing learning and movement. So far, scientists have not identified safe levels of exposure that do not produce damage. Additionally, both PCBs and PBDEs are found in humans, and their effects on brain development may be additive.

When selecting upholstery fabric you should seek to avoid the use of added flame retardants whenever possible. EnviroLeather™ passes standard industry testing for flammability without the use of flame retardants.

See article below for more detail.

Growing Threats: Toxic Flame Retardants and Children’s Health (pdf)

Travis Madsen, Susan Lee, and Teri Olle
[Dangerous Chemicals – Editorial / SF Chronicle June 11, 2003]