Flame retardants in the polyurethane foam of millions of upholstered sofas, overstuffed chairs and other products have ignited a heated debate over safety, efficacy and fire-safety standards — and a search for alternative materials. That’s the topic of a cover story package in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of ACS, the world’s largest scientific society.
An overview of the package describes the controversy, fostered largely by a California chemist, who claims that flame retardants pose unacceptable toxic hazards and do not work as effectively as widely believed. It points out, however, that numerous fire-safety experts question those claims about flame retardants, which have saved thousands of lives.
A second article, by William G. Schulz, C&EN news editor, takes a closer look at the anti-flame retardant campaign and how it has outraged fire-safety scientists. In another article, C&EN Senior Correspondent Cheryl Hogue describes how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps to make sure flame retardants are safe for people and the environment. An additional article by Alexander H. Tullo, C&EN senior editor, describes efforts to develop new polymeric materials that will put to rest uncertainty over brominated flame retardants.