Posted by: Green Knight | December 10, 2012

Watch where you Sit

If more readers would bother to respond, they might accuse me of lately just posting articles from elsewhere with a few comments. That’d be partially correct; I’ve been tired out working on the apartment and on cat rescue. But people see stuff on here that they might not otherwise. I also get tons and tons of requests via e-mail for donations (which I’d do if I could afford it) and to sign petitions (which I take the time to sign). I got one today that raised my antennae, because I’ve commented on it before, which is the potential revision of TSCA, the Toxic Substances Control Act. It’s the flip-side of FIFRA, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. (The latter includes herbicides, because there are plant pests too; they should’ve just named it FPA, the Federal Pesticide Act).

At any rate, those two laws are unusual in that the states weren’t invited to participate; they’re strictly federally handled. TSCA is for anything that ISN’T a pesticide. Under that law, we took PCBs off the market, banned asbestos from most uses, created a study program for radon in partnership with state health departments, and banned lead-based paint from residential use. Both programs, TSCA and FIFRA, are supposed to also look at new chemical products to evaluate their safety and therefore whether they can be sold to the general public, or only used by licensed companies, or not allowed to be used in the US at all.

Unfortunately, TSCA has fallen into the same trap as the Department of Energy, DOE, which allows nuclear power plants to “self-inspect,” and keeps renewing permits for aging plants. TSCA allows manufacturers to do their own toxicity testing, which is a dangerous proposition in my book. Company scientists are just too easily bought. So there’s a movement to create an amendment to it, again, which I’ve mentioned before on here, called the Safe Chemicals Act, written by Sen. Frank Lautenberg and  approved in committee in July (see

So why today’s title? (I like inventing weird titles for my posts, if you hadn’t noticed). Well, because the e-mail I got from “MOMS Clean Air Force” today talked about chemicals in sofa cushions. Offgassing of formaldehyde and other chemicals from particle board and carpet backing, and from stuff you’re taking home from the dry cleaner’s, has been known about for decades; this is just another example of our reliance on synthetics. I don’t have kids, but I have kitties. I’m not all that concerned about things seeping from my rugs or furniture; I keep the windows open a bit, even in cold weather, and nothing accumulates. But I’ve trained a lot of firefighters, and back in the days when we made everything out of natural fabrics and stuffing, the smoke was just smoke. With the synthetics we’re making everything out of these days, when they burn, the smoke is toxic. The big question has always been where to draw the line between convenience and safety. Somewhere, certainly, but until we go back to making everything out of hemp or other natural materials, there has to be a line. Jimson weed, poison oak, and hemlock are natural, but not something I’d stuff my easy chair with. I’ll finish off with the text of the e-mail I got. I signed the petition; letting industry write its own rules is a bad idea. Dominique Browning is behind MOMS Clean Air Force, and they’re on Facebook, if you care to take a look.

When I bought my couch a few years ago, I sat on every sample in the store. I felt the difference between a deep seat and a shallow one, a tufted back and a cushion back, a twill and a velour. I learned about the many upholstery and finish options.

Oh, how I loved my couch. But now, the bloom is off the rose.

A team of scientists recently told me what’s inside my couch–it’s called chlorinated Tris and it’s a carcinogenic flame retardant chemical.

Chlorinated Tris is just one of thousands of toxic, persistent, problematic or entirely untested chemicals on the U.S. market today. That’s because current law allows chemicals to be added to furniture and other household products without being tested for their health effects. Dangerous chemicals don’t necessarily stay in couches or other products, either–they can migrate out and pollute the air inside our homes.

It’s clear that we need a new toxic chemical law, and fast–tell your senator to support stronger toxic chemical standards.

Toxic chemicals become airborne and get into house dust, where they are inhaled and ingested, especially by babies and toddlers who are on the floor and put their hands and toys in their mouths all the time.

At Moms Clean Air Force, we believe we have a right to clean air, outside and inside. And we don’t believe it is a mother’s job to figure out which chemicals are safe, and which are poisonous–whether they’re blowing from smokestacks or wafting out of foam.

It’s time to fix the federal law that allow the sale and use of hazardous and untested chemicals. Tell your senator to protect the air inside our homes today. We need strong new legislation to ensure that chemicals are safe.


[petition text]

Recently, a team of researchers from Duke University and UC Berkeley found that 85% of couch cushions contain toxic or untested chemicals. For instance, 41% of couch cushions contain chlorinated Tris, a carcinogenic flame retardant chemical.

That’s because the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act allows hazardous or untested chemicals to be added to furniture and other household products without being tested for their health effects. 

Right now, there are 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States that are either known to be harmful or that haven’t been tested.

These dangerous chemicals migrate into the air inside and outside our homes–the air our families breathe every day–exposing us to harmful carcinogens. 

The Toxic Substances Control Act is in need of an updated [sic]. I urge you to support stronger toxic chemical standards so that we may protect our families from dangerous, cancer-causing chemicals and preserve clean air within our homes.

moms clean air force


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