York – International Symposium on Flame Retardants
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Brains in danger? Arte's documentary by Silvie Gilman and Thierry de Lestrade, will be broadcast on 11 Nov. 2017
Is exposure to flame retardants and other toxics reducing the intelligence of our population? Check out the trailer to "Brains in Danger: How chemicals are poisoning future generations." The French documentary includes the story of flame retardants and the work carried out by Arlene Blum and the Green Science Policy Institute on flame retardants. ARTE’s filmmakers also attended the launch of the European Alliance’s for Flame Retardant Free Furniture policy paper in Brussels.

On 11 November 2017 "Demain, Tous Cretins?" will premiere in France, broadcasting the message that we need to reduce the use of toxic chemicals to protect our brains and those of future generations. 

Full documentary is available here or live on 11 November at 22:35 ARTE French channel. 
GPP criteria for furniture products - the EU warns Member States about testing methods leading to the use of flame retardants in furniture
EU GPP criteria aim at facilitating public authorities the purchase of products, services and works with reduced environmental impact.

The European Commission has revised the GPP criteria for furniture products and in its new set of criteria and Technical report  is warning Member States on negative effects from flame retardants' use when choosing open-flame tests for upholstered furniture. 
Information Exchange Platform on Fire Safety in buildings
On 13th September, during the European Parliament plenary debate on fire safety in buildings, the European Commission launched the platform for fire safety in buildings.

The Platform gathered 25 Member States and 25 Associations together with the EC's officials for sharing information and methods for safer buildings.
One of the main issue raised by the majority of the stakeholders attending the meeting was referring to toxicity of fumes. In fact, it is considered as one of most challenging issues related to fire safety.

The European Commission has identified 5 main workstreams on the basis of which the Platform might be divided in working groups in the future.

1. Data collection
2. Exchange of practices in the sense of fire prevention 
3. Lessons learnt
4. New products
5. Fire Safety engineering
USA - Federal Agency warning on organohalogens flame retardants used in furniture and other consumers products
In an historical decision, the USA Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted on 20 September 2017, to warn the public about the dangers of flame retardant chemicals known as organohalogens in upholstered furniture, mattresses, baby products and electronics enclosures, approving a statement that provides guidance for manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, and consumers.

“Based on the overwhelming scientific evidence presented to the Commission to date, the Commission has serious concerns regarding the potential toxicity of OFRs, and the risks of exposure, particularly to vulnerable populations, to OFRs, from the four categories of products listed in the petition”

The Commission claimed its authority under an USA law enacted to address "unreasonable risks" to consumers.

Full text of the guidance document is available here.
Chicago Tribune article is available here.  
Rhole Island bans the sale of certain bedding and furniture treated with a flame retardant chemical

Despite strong opposition from the chemical industry’s chief trade group, the American Chemistry Council, Rhole Island opted to support the proposed law.

The law bans the sale of any bedding or furniture containing more than the tiniest amount of a fire retardant chemical known as organohalogen. It carries a fine of $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for each subsequent violation, but does not take effect until July 1, 2019.

Supporters of the ban say that organohalogens do little to reduce fire risk but when they flake off they are easily inhaled and harmful. Meanwhile, when the chemical burns, they say, the resulting toxins pose potentially severe breathing hazards, especially to firefighters.

Full article is available here.
San Francisco banning sale of products containing any flame retardants
In August, Maine became the first state in the USA to enact such a ban and San Francisco has followed approving an ordinance banning the sale of upholstered furniture and children's products containing flame retardant chemicals.

The Act, introduced by SF Supervisor Mark Farrell, was unanimously approved and this will path the way to other ban throughout the USA.

Tom O’Connor, president of San Francisco Firefighters Local 798 and co-founder of the 10-year-old San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation, said, “Supervisor Farrell’s legislation is the first step in the direction to minimize our exposure to these chemicals.” He added, “The scariest building a firefighter goes into isn’t on fire, it’s the building where their oncologist works.”

More information here.
The Boston Globe alerting consumer on the health risks posed by flame retardants
The article "Flame retardants could be hazardous to your health" underlines that "Increasingly scientists and consumer advocates have been saying that these chemicals are more dangerous than helpful — causing diseases and neurological problems, particularly in children. Some types of flame retardants already have been banned, but others are still in widespread use." 

Interviewing relevant stakeholders, the suggestion is to "look for labels that indicate furniture “contains no added flame retardants,” and to ask questions to retailers and manufacturers because "manufacturers are often responsive to customer inquiries".

Full article is available here.
The regrettable substitution dilemma
Webinar: “Regrettable replacements” occur with the substitution of one toxic chemical with another chemical that turns out to be equally, if not more, toxic.  A prominent example of the issue include the replacement of one set of flame retardants (polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs) with another set (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs) that have similar toxicological and endocrine disrupting properties. PBDEs, in turn, have begun to be replaced with other chemicals, which may also have endocrine disrupting properties. Dr. Courtney Carignan’s presents her research at the following webinar (starting at minutes 21.36):
Dr Carignan has conducted biomonitoring and health studies for a wide range of populations including infertile couples, new mothers, office workers, gymnasts, and communities exposed to contaminated drinking water. She holds a PhD from the Boston University School of Public Health, completed postdoctoral training at Dartmouth College and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and is currently an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University. Prior to pursuing graduate training she conducted risk assessments and response actions for contaminated sites.
A new study on the effects of FM550 in humans
In the State of California, certain type of flame retardants were phased out of commerce due to their toxicity and bioaccumulative properties. As such, industry was required to find alternatives such as the proprietary mixture Firemaster® 550 (FM550), which is used in commercial products including furniture, textiles, and electronics. 

A new study from the Environmental Health Science and Research Bureau, Canada, found that FM550, and two its components, induce adipogenesis in human primary preadipocytes.

Previous studies in murine systems have shown that FM550 and its main components increase adipogenesis. So, this is the first study on the effects of FM550 in humans.

The full study is available here.
The Alliance for Flame Retardant Free Furniture in Europe
This is a newsletter from The Alliance for Flame Retardant Free Furniture in Europe, consisting of stakeholders ranging from environmental NGOs to industry, cancer organisations, fire fighters and labour unions. The Alliance shares and stresses the same concerns about the implications from the presence of harmful flame retardants chemicals in furniture products, and believes that more effective and less harmful ways to achieve fire safety exist and need to be evaluated.

In September 2016, the Alliance published the Policy Paper The Case for Flame Retardant Free Furniture.

The signatories:
  • European Furniture Industries Confederation (EFIC)
  • European Fire Fighter Unions Alliance (EFFUA)
  • European Environmental Citizens Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS)
  • European Environmental Bureau (EEB) 
  • Zero Waste Europe (ZWE)
  • The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)
  • CHEM Trust 
  • The Cancer Prevention and Education Society (Cancer Prevention)
  • European Bedding Industries Association (EBIA)
  • European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW)
Please contact if you are interested in joining the initiative. 

Best regards

Roberta Dessí
Secretary General
EFIC - European Furniture Industries Confederation
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