Misinformation fuels misplaced concerns over flame retardants

Recent media events have focused on debates about fire safety standards and flame retardants. The North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA)—a group strongly committed to improving fire safety—welcomes an open public discussion on the facts about these important compounds that help keep Americans out of harm’s way.

Unfortunately, the heightened interest in fire safety has been accompanied by misinformation about flame retardants from special interest groups. Many of the inaccuracies we’ve seen and corrected before. But, there is a danger that families across the country may still be confused—or worse, unnecessarily concerned—about an integral component of fire safety that has long protected them and their homes. Families could be misled into thinking that the fire safety standards and tools that have quietly and consistently protected them for decades are no longer needed.

Home fires are a real threat to public safety. The National Fire Protection Association reports that there was one home fire reported every 85 seconds in 2012. Home fires caused an estimated 2,570 civilian deaths, 13,210 civilian injuries, and $7.2 billion in direct property damage per year through 2007-2011. These numbers can seem shocking, but it is important to remember that they are a vast improvement over what was happening across the United States as little as 40 years ago.

A major contributor to the decline in fires and fire deaths since the 1970s is the development of a comprehensive set of fire-safety measures. Strong fire codes have helped protect families, and tools such as smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and flame retardants have all helped in battling the dangers of fire. The fact is that research studies have shown that using flame retardants in upholstered furniture can delay a fire by several minutes.

Families should know that the extensive scientific studies by independent experts make clear that flame retardants add an important layer of fire protection and flame retardants have been subject to strong review by regulatory agencies.

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