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Can Governor Brown Snuff Out Flame Retardants?

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I never thought much about where we spend most of our leisure time -- in bed or on the couch -- until I started learning the frightening truth about dangerously toxic flame retardants.

Apparently, Governor Brown's pretty scared, too.

On Tuesday, Brown spoke out in favor of revising California's furniture flammability standards.

Because the state represents such a large market, California's standards have become a national standard, essentially forcing furniture and baby product manufacturers throughout North America to add chemical flame retardants to their products.

"Toxic flame retardants are found in everything from high chairs to couches and a growing body of evidence suggests that these chemicals harm human health and the environment," Governor Brown said. "We must find better ways to meet fire safety standards by reducing and eliminating -- wherever possible -- dangerous chemicals."

Recently, there's been a veritable blitz of media supporting flame retardants opposition, including a Chicago Tribune multi-part series, which I predict will win a Pulitzer.

The bottom line?

According to the Tribune, the ubiquitous use of flame retardants in this country is a direct result of a campaign by the tobacco industry: More than 80% of furniture sold in the United States contains foam treated with flame retardant chemicals, and Americans record levels as much as 100 times higher than Europeans.

Flame retardants don't protect us from fires, and the chemicals -- which are transmitted through dust to our lungs, blood and even breast milk -- are linked to cancer, as well as neurological, developmental and fertility problems.

But the tide seems to be turning: In addition to Governor Brown doing the right thing, the Green Science Policy Institute announced recently that they had successfully prevented an international standard that would have required flame retardants in television cases. The move thwarted a decade-long promotion from the chemical industry, reduces flame retardant exposures and will allow the cases to be recycled.

What can you do? Make your voice heard by signing Sara Snow's petition to eliminate flame retardants from Graco's products.

Then, wash your hands! According to Discovery News, "Workers who washed hands more than four times a day had a threefold reduction in blood levels of certain PBDE flame retardants."

Yet one more reason to nag your kids about sudsing up.