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Toxic chemicals in furniture and fabrics in the UK 

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We need your help

The Government recently published a consultation on new draft fire regulations for upholstered furniture, which will involve increased use of fire retardant chemicals.  

We believe that the harm caused by these chemicals outweighs the fire safety benefit, and we are concerned that the regulations have not given proper consideration to the re-upholstery business.

Thank you so much for your response to the campaign. Over 5000 people signed our open letter, and we will keep you informed of the governments response. 


Forever chemicals

Many of the chemicals in fire retardant treatments of furniture and fabrics in the UK don't readily breakdown in the environment.

These 'forever chemicals' are not chemically bonded with the foam nor (usually) with the fabric. In landfill these chemicals easily migrate out, polluting the air, soil and water. Chemicals then spread across the world, and have been found in gannets in Scotland to penguins in the Antarctic.

The government recognises the dangers to the environment, and and now treats upholstered furniture as toxic waste, meaning it must be incinerated - which has its own environmental implications. 

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Threat to wildlife

Recently published analysis examining ~20 years of flame retardant research, has found than a hundred species of wildlife across every continent are contaminated with highly toxic flame retardants, and the pollution is probably responsible for population declines in some species.


Lydia Jahl's research includes an interactive map showing the location and type of animal found to be contaminated, bringing into focus the breadth of flame retardant pollution and dangers it poses.


Danger to health

There are thousands of scientific studies linking fire retardant chemicals to fertility problems, endocrine and metabolic disruption, developmental issues in children and cancer.


Because of their proximity to furniture and tendency to mouth items, small children are particularly affected by these chemicals.

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Fire safety

Fire safety is important. There are growing concerns about the effectiveness of flame retardant chemicals in ensuring fire safety. There is evidence that in the event of a fire flame retardants exacerbate smoke and fire toxicity.

There is much work to be done to identify

(a) what starts a fire

(b) what makes it grow

(c) what causes smoke

(d) what causes smoke toxicity

A full analysis - case by case - of the reports of Fire Investigators needs to be undertaken to analyse this and calculate practical measures that can be taken in the UK to improve fire safety.

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