Chemical flame retardants have been used in American homes for decades to fireproof sofas, mattresses, and even children’s toys. As flame retardants permeate more and more aspects of people's homes and the environment, some have begun to question these potentially toxic chemicals. While flame retardants have been said to cause dangerous health risks, they have also been hailed as necessary to prevent the spread of dangerous fires.
— Molly Banta, Nia Creator
Flame retardants are absolutely necessary, especially in the United States where a majority of homes are made of wood. As research proves, the dangerous gases, as well as the damage done to a homes, that are released from a single fire greatly outweigh the "potentially dangerous" components in flame retardants. Until there is more definite research which proves that flame retardants result in legitimate health risks, American homes should continue to use flame retardants.
As much as studies attempt to show that the current usage of chemical flame retardants has a negative impact on both personal health and the environment, they fail to address the fact that fires need to be prevented. While the current system for flame retardants may not be perfect, every measure for safety can and must be taken. Future research and development may create a better way of preventing fires, but if chemical flame retardants are currently the most effective option, then they should be used in the applicable situations.
While the dodgy science and questionable pro-flame retardants sources make me very wary to trust the research, if fires are preventable it seems to make sense to do everything we can to prevent them. As California's historic drought continues, the fear of forest fires rises this summer as the land has become increasingly dry. I think the real obstacle that people need to now face is how to create flame retardants that are not detrimental to the environment or our health.
Flame retardants does play an important role in preventing dangerous fires but it may also be harmful to the environment and people's health. Flame retardants are worth it, but long term health is also important. We can not choose only one of them as we need both of them. Therefore, maybe scientists should begin to focus on finding out the new healthy and sate materials for flame retardants
While it is hard to find much unbiased support for flame retardants, it is also important not to judge all flame retardants as the same -- there may well be a few that are not sufficiently toxic and effective enough that they provide a benefit (new ones on airplanes?). I'm skeptical the risk of fire is actually great enough to use them even under those circumstances.
I'm specifically concerned that most of the support for flame retardants are coming from two industry sources: Flameretardantfacts.com and American Chemistry Council. I would like to think that if there was more support, it would be easier to find.
Flame retardants in home furniture don't clearly show that they do any good, but can cause harm. Additionally, preventing the fire in the first place (e.g. by not smoking) can further curb the risks greatly, as has already been seen as house fires have decreased with a decrease in smoking.
The evidence seems to suggest that today's flame retardants are not worth the risk to the environment and to human health. The chemicals are making their way into the ecosystem and are potentially causing damage, without clear evidence of whether they're actually effective in slowing fires.
In theory we should do all we can to protect our homes from risk of fire - however we also should be protecting our families and ourselves from chemicals dangerous for our health and the environment. Studies have proven that the chemicals in flame retardants have spread from our couches and other 'protected' household items, throughout the environment (and our bodies!). If flame retardants had a substantial effect in preventing fires, health risks could be reevaluated and cost-benefit weighed. However, flame retardants have not even been proven to effectively prevent fires - a fact the chemical companies have spent billions on propaganda just to keep their product relevant.