Environment

chemicals in furniture, flame retardants in furniture

Dangerous Toxins Lurk in Household Items—Can They Be Regulated?

April 02, 2009 10:30 AM
by Haley A. Lovett
Chemicals in everyday items, such as flame retardants in furniture, may pose health and environmental risks, but consumer demand and corporate resistance may make state regulation ineffective.

Oregon, New York Aim to Ban Household Toxins

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In Oregon, the Legislature will see a number of bills this session addressing the issue of household toxins. The presence of mercury in florescent bulbs, BPA in baby bottles, and flame retardant decabrominated diphenyl ether (deca-BDE) in mattresses and other furniture, raises questions about the safety of these products for the consumer and for the environment. The bills propose a variety of ways of dealing with these toxins: some suggest that the manufacturers should pay for recycling, such as in the case of florescent bulbs, other bills suggest banning certain toxins altogether, such as in the case of deca-BDE in furniture.

Recently, House and Senate members introduced a bill that would ban BPA in food and beverage containers. Before congress has a chance to look over the bill, states and even some companies are taking steps to eliminate BPA. Suffolk Country, N.Y., is moving toward a ban on BPA.

But will bans on household toxins enacted at county or state levels be enough to prevent residents from exposure to potentially harmful or environmentally unfriendly products?

Related Topic: Consumers, corporations resist eco-friendly product regulation

In Spokane County, Wash., it seems some residents have been smuggling dishwashing detergent. The county is the first in the state to enact a ban on detergents with phosphates, which can end up in rivers and promote the growth of algae that depletes the water of oxygen. Some residents are going elsewhere to get non eco-friendly varieties that they say clean their dishes better.

The California Energy Commission recently set energy regulations for television sets; some manufacturers will have to cut TV energy consumption by 50 percent by 2013. Television sets account for 10 percent of electricity bills in California, and many of the newer plasma screen sets use much more electricity than older cathode ray models. A change in California might mean changes across the nation. As Reuters points out, the regulations “are likely to become the new industry standard for manufacturers everywhere, by virtue of California’s sheer size as a consumer market.” TV manufacturers argue that voluntary improvements in energy efficiency are enough, and that no standard is needed.

Reference: green living

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