Just hours before planned events at Macy’s stores in ten states calling attention to the retailer’s sale of some furniture products containing toxic flame retardant chemicals, Macy’s announced it would end the practice. As part of the Mind the Store campaign, VPIRG and other public health and environmental groups around the country had been pressuring Macy’s make this move, and following their announcement we’re excited to hail this change as a victory for consumers’ health and the environment!
“By taking this big step to make all sofas safe, Macy’s has given us something to be thankful for this fall. This is an important victory for consumers, parents and kids in Vermont,” said VPIRG’s Consumer Protection Advocate, Falko Schilling. “This takes us one step closer to ending the silent epidemic of dangerous chemicals in our homes. We hope other big retailers will join them in eliminating these harmful chemicals.”
Check out the Bloomberg Business article here: After Activist Pressure, Macy’s Vows to Ensure Furniture Is Free of Toxic Flame Retardants
Concerned parents and health advocates had asked Macy’s to commit to adopting a policy eliminating the toxic chemicals in furniture by this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. As part of the Mind the Store campaign, a formal letter as well as thousands of emails from customers encouraging Macy’s to address the issue were sent to the company. The national “day of action” at Macy’s stores around the country was halted by their response to Mind the Store last week, saying in part,
“We expect that our suppliers (the manufacturers of furniture sold at Macy’s) are no longer using the chemicals in question, and we believe a majority are already in compliance… We will be instructing any remaining suppliers who are using these chemicals to cease doing so…If we do identify a vendor that is still applying the old flame retardants, we will be requiring them to cease doing so immediately.”
Numerous competing retailers like IKEA, Walmart, and Ashley have already announced that they are phasing out toxic flame retardants in furniture. Some chains like Pier 1 Imports, Rooms to Go, and Berkshire Hathaway’s furniture stores have not yet made announcements.
For years, the vast majority of couches and upholstered furniture across the U.S. contained high levels of toxic flame retardant chemicals. Since 1975, furniture foam sold across the U.S. has been laden with these substances to meet the standards of a California “technical bulletin” called TB117. Despite being called “flame retardants,” research by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other groups has found that these chemicals are not necessary to ensure that furniture is fire safe.
Recent changes to the California flammability standard now provide better fire safety without the use of these toxic chemicals. The new standard, which became mandatory as of January 1, 2015, can be met without the addition of flame retardant chemicals. It does not prevent the use of toxic flame retardants, however, so they may still be used in furniture foam. In response to the changes to the standard, many leading furniture manufacturers and retailers have eliminated the chemicals in upholstered furniture.
In daily use, toxic flame retardants do not stay in the furniture. They migrate out of the products and collect in indoor dust where they enter people’s bodies by being inhaled, ingested, and touched. Some toxic flame retardants do not break down easily, and have been found to persist and travel to waterways and ecosystems virtually everywhere. Studies show that more than 90 percent of American women of childbearing age have toxic flame retardants in their bodies. In a fire, firefighters are exposed to these harmful chemicals and the highly toxic byproducts that result when they burn.
The Mind the Store campaign, a project of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, is challenging major U.S. retailers to adopt policies to identify, restrict, and safely substitute the Hazardous 100+ chemicals in common consumer products.