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Dr. Oz does disservice to family safety by using scare tactics, not science, on show

In the most recent example of misinformation about flame retardants, the “Dr. Oz Show” hosted the producers of the HBO docudrama, “Toxic Hot Seat.” In an earlier blog posting we discussed many of the misleading claims the docudrama makes about flame retardants, but in light of the discussion that took place with Dr. Oz, we want to continue to give viewers accurate information about flame retardants.

First and foremost, fire is a real danger to families across the United States. According to the National Fire Protection Association, last year, there were over 350,000 home fires across the country, leading to over 2,300 deaths. One home fire was reported every 85 seconds in America. Senior citizens and children are often most at risk.

These statistics are sobering. They are why flame retardants, as well as other sensible fire-safety measures, are critical. Studies show that flame retardants in upholstered furniture stop or slow the spread of fire and give families significant additional time to escape from dangerous fire situations. One recent study showed that the flame retardants included in furniture foam delayed the flashover state of a fire by several minutes. This time can mean  the difference between life and death.

Yet, despite the important role flame retardants play in protecting families, California recently weakened its fire-safety standard by no longer requiring furniture manufacturers to comply with the open-flame test. What this means is that beginning in 2014, furniture makers will no longer have to ensure upholstered furniture can withstand an open flame from sources such as matches, candles or lighters. Because California has such a large market share, what it decides can have ripple effects across the country.

California’s move did not come without outcry. A chorus of voices, including a bipartisan group of legislators, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the California Conference of Arson Investigators, and Underwriters Laboratories, called for California to keep in place its open flame test. The NFPA said it “feels strongly that a fully comprehensive fire safety regulation of upholstered furniture must address the full spectrum of major fire scenarios, including the open flame scenarios.”

So why in the face of all the evidence did the “Dr. Oz Show” choose to be critical of flame retardants?

Some people have suggested that flame retardants have adverse effects on our health. But it is important to realize that all new flame retardants are evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure adequate safety levels before they are manufactured for public use. This means that the same federal agency that is protecting the safety of your drinking water is overseeing the use of flame retardants.

The fact that trace amounts of chemicals are found in a person’s body does not mean there is cause for concern. As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes: “[T]he measurement of an environmental chemical in a person’s blood or urine is an indication of exposure; it does not by itself mean that a chemical causes disease or an adverse effect.” Indeed, advances in biomonitoring have made it possible to detect exceedingly small amounts of these chemicals in the body.

The members of the North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA) take their role in helping to protect American families very seriously. We encourage readers to learn more about flame retardants by going to

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