Safety groups push regulators to avoid toxic couches

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The Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety is urging the federal commission to finalize a 2008 proposal that it says would keep toxic chemicals out of household furniture.

The question comes down to whether furniture should be resistant to open flames, which would require furniture to be treated with flame retardant chemicals, or just a smoldering ember, which would not call for the chemicals.

The health and safety groups worry that the flame retardant chemicals can have "very significant" tolls on people's health.

"Peer-reviewed human epidemiology and animal studies show that furniture flame retardants are associated with neurological and reproductive impairments, endocrine disruption, mutagenicity, and cancer," they write, also noting that the chemicals may have links to autism and obesity. 

In 2008, the federal regulators proposed using a smolder standard, and have been considering issuing a rule ever since.

In its proposal at the time, the agency said it had "developed the proposed standard mindful of the continuing uncertainty about potential health and environmental effects of [flame retardant] chemical usage, with an objective of achieving significant reductions in fire deaths and injuries from upholstered furniture fires caused by smoking materials while minimizing reliance on [flame retardant] additives in fabrics and filling materials to meet that objective."

The safety coalition wants the commission to finalize the rule without shifting away from the reliance on a smolder standard.

Members of the Alliance for Toxic-Free Fire Safety include the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Autism Society and the Center for Environmental Health, among others.