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Originally published February 12, 2013 at 4:38 PM | Page modified February 12, 2013 at 4:38 PM

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Op-ed: Get chlorinated Tris out of foam in Washington’s furniture

Study after study has shown that common household foam items, from baby carriers to couches, contain harmful, cancer-causing flame retardants, writes guest columnist Maureen Judge.

Special to The Times


STUDY after study has shown that common household foam items, from baby carriers to couches, contain harmful, cancer-causing flame retardants.

The flame retardant chlorinated Tris, the chemical found in couches, nap mats and even car seats, causes irreparable damage to our reproductive health and may impact fertility.

In Washington, we have a chance to take action to protect ourselves and our families. The state Legislature is reviewing the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act, and bipartisan support has already been shown by the Legislature for protecting children over the profits of the chemical industry.

Reports from the Chicago Tribune and Duke University have shown the health risks of Tris. The toxin is released into the air from products, attaches itself to household dust and then lands on food, clothing and surfaces, where it can be inhaled or ingested — especially by young children.

Exposure to this toxic chemical has been found to cause tumors in the kidneys and livers of animals as well as damage to developing brain cells. DNA mutations have developed in vitro with pregnant moms in several studies.

Health damage in the name of fire prevention is a no-win for everyone.

We can all agree that preventing couches from catching fire is a good thing. There are many nontoxic methods for preventing fires that haven’t been found by researches to disrupt hormones or cause DNA mutations.

Some manufacturers use naturally flame-retardant materials, such as mineral fillers that absorb heat and give off water. Some use foam inside a polymer material in mattresses.

Tris was phased out of baby pajamas back in 1977 because of its harmful consequences. If it isn’t allowed there, why should companies be allowed to use it in couches our kids sit and play on, and even in products our babies sleep on?

As a very proud mom of a 15-year-old daughter, and a lifelong environmental advocate, I call upon the members of my community to support this important legislation and to make your voice heard. Along with eliminating chlorinated Tris, it will also help ensure companies replace Tris with safer chemicals, not with chemicals that harm our health.

Do not let the powerful lobbyists in Olympia dictate the health of you and your family. Fight them with your voice and your buying power. Call your state representative and senator now to ask them to hear the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act and to pass the bill when it comes forward so we can eliminate cancer-causing chemicals from children’s products and the furniture in our homes. Also, buy products from companies that use safer materials.

Our legislators should take action to pass this bill, and help keep Washington children and families strong. It will take political will on their part — the chemical industry has powerful, high-paid lobbyists as well as paid front groups that feign concern for fire safety in the service of profits. I have faith, though, that our legislators have their priorities straight, and will do what it takes to pass this bill and ban chlorinated Tris once and for all.

Legislation passed in 2013 would impact how products are manufactured and would demand better product choices from some of the biggest companies in the country. Speak out for people everywhere. We deserve a healthier home and a healthier environment.

Maureen A. Judge lives on Mercer Island. She is former executive director for the Washington Toxics Coalition.