PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A new study shows there may be toxic chemicals in the couches of just about everyone in America. Researchers at Duke University and U-C Berkeley published their findings in the journal Environmental Science Wednesday. 85 out of the 100 couches tested for possibly toxic flame retardant chemicals, including Chlorinated Tris, a chemical that was removed from children's pajamas in 1977.
Jenny Rottmann of Portland submitted a sample from her couch cushion for testing for the study and found out that hers contained Firemaster 550, a chemical flame retardant the Environmental Protection Agency is studying as a potential health threat. Rottmann is pregnant with her first child and says she was upset by the results, especially since there is little that consumers can do to research the flame-resistant chemicals in their furniture.
Rottmann said, "If I find out he does have learning disabilities or developmental problems, how much time am I going to spend thinking back and saying maybe I should have gotten the new couch. Maybe I should have not sat on the couch, and I'll feel a lot of guilt as a mother for not knowing what to do."
Rottmann works for the Environmental Health Strategy Center, which is pushing the U-S Senate to adopt the Safe Chemicals Act this coming year. It would require the chemical industry to do more to ensure its products are safe.
Anne Kolton, the Vice President of Communications for the American Chemistry Council, says regulators have found these chemicals to be safe at the levels that people are typically exposed to them.
"Flame retardant chemistries offer valuable time for families and individuals to escape from a home or a building when it's on fire. And we know minutes can be the difference between life and death."
She says the laws need to be updated, but this act would create job-killing, burdensome regulations.
Still, John Martell of the Professional Fire Fighters of Maine downplays the idea that the chemicals save lives in fire. He says firefighters are very concerned about their exposure to carcinogens, and that sprinklers are a more effective, less hazardous way to keep homes safe.