A coalition of researchers between the Technoscience Resaerch Unit, Politics of Evidence Working Group, and Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR) have produced a new report highlighting the failure of federal regulations to keep harmful flame retardant chemicals out of homes and consumer products. Toxic by Design by the Endocrine Disruptors Action Group (EDAction) brings critical science and technology studies research and reproductive justice approaches to investigate how flaws in Canada’s regulatory approach to toxic flame retardants have far-reaching health effects.
Toxic by Design provides a timely comprehensive study of the dangers of flame retardant chemicals and Canada’s regulatory inaction. Flame retardant chemicals are built into everyday consumer products and materials, like furniture and electronics, surrounding us with chronic and persistent exposures in our homes and workplaces. The report details how current regulations permit industries to substitute one harmful chemical with replacement chemicals that have not been thoroughly tested. It recommends that the Canadian government adopt a precautionary approach and prohibit not only the manufacture of toxic flame retardants but their presence in all consumer products.
Flame retardants can disrupt normal hormone activity in developing bodies, even at low doses. Canada’s slow regulatory process has encouraged an environment of ubiquitous exposures that pregnant women and infants cannot avoid. Toxic by Design shows that though PBDEs were declared toxic in 2004, it took until 2016 for the government to regulate decaPBDE, the most commonly used form of PBDE. Even the newest federal regulations, which will come into effect in December 2016, continue to permit the widespread use of harmful flame retardant chemicals in household products.
While fire safety is a serious concern, scientific research has shown that flame retardant chemicals do not significantly improve fire protection. Flame retardant chemicals have been linked to serious health effects, including hormone disruption, heart disease, cognitive impairment, and reduced fertility in both men and women. Federal data shows that 92 percent of all women tested in Canada had toxic flame retardant chemicals in their breast milk. All Canadians tested, including children, had some form of flame retardant chemical in their bodies.
To accompany the report, EDAction has created a Write2Know letter that invites the public to share their concerns about the persistent harms of flame retardant chemicals with the government.