FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2016
Capitol Couches Could Be Killing You
Sen. Wielechowski Announces Results of Testing of Couches in the Capitol Building for Toxic Chemicals
Senate Bill 111, legislation proposed by Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) and recently moved to the Senate Judiciary Committee, would limit the amount of a certain category of harmful flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs) found in upholstered furniture, and children’s items. It would also require manufacturers to label these items to alert consumers, and allow them to make a free and educated decision about purchasing these items for their families.
As part of an ongoing effort to demonstrate the danger and widespread presence of these hazardous materials, the Alaska Community Action on Toxics tested the polyurethane foam from three couches located in legislative offices in the Capitol building for the presence of these toxic flame retardants.
The results of the analytical tests, from samples taken in January of 2016, were recently released. High levels of PBDEs were found in all three of the Capitol furnishings that were tested. In addition to their toxicity, these harmful chemicals are not bonded to the foam, allowing them to easily escape into the environment where they come into contact with people.
The danger to human health include risks of the slowing of neurodevelopmental processes in young children, cancer, infertility, and attention deficit disorders, among others. PBDEs also migrate through the umbilical cord during pregnancy, passing the dangerous chemicals from mother to unborn child.
A large couch may contain up to 2 pounds of PBDEs in its foam cushions. The chemicals are also sprayed on the foam of some highchairs, diaper-changing pads, and breast-feeding pillows. Recyclers turn this dangerous toxic foam into the padding used underneath carpets. Most Alaskans live intimately with these chemicals and never know it.
“Alaskans have a right to know if they are purchasing products for themselves, their babies and the rest of their families that have been shown to cause these devastating health effects,” said Sen. Wielechowski. “People are free to make their own choices, but they have a right to full information before they do. I hope that the results of this testing by ACAT will bring it home to my colleagues every time they sit on their office chairs and couches.”
When contaminated items are disposed of, PBDEs escape into the wider environment, and we are now seeing water, wildlife, and food that shows alarming levels of PBDEs. Alaska is in a position to stop this contaminant in its tracks and demand that Alaskans are properly informed before putting their families at risk. This legislation has already received support from Alaskan parents, firefighters, the Alaska Federation of Natives, individual villages across Alaska, and national organizations fighting to prevent cancer.
For more information, contact TJ Presley in Senator Wielechowski’s office at 465-2435.