The plastic is full of flame retardants banned in Europe, Canada and a number of states
According to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, "In 2017, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a warning to manufacturers and retailers, urging them to “eliminate the use” of organohalogen flame retardants in electronics such as TVs." But a new study by that group and others including Toxic-Free Future, the Mind the Store campaign, found significant amounts of them in Best Buy Insignia Roku TVs and Toshiba (Hisense) Fire TVs. Download the report, Toxic TV Binge, here.
“Why are Best Buy and Amazon allowing these dangerous, old-school flame retardants to be used in televisions that are supposed to be top-of-the-line? Organohalogen flame retardant chemicals are so problematic that they were just outlawed in Europe. Safer alternatives exist, so organohalogen flame retardants have no place in our homes in 2019. These major retailers must step up and eliminate these dangerous chemicals once and for all,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
Treehugger has long covered the issue of Organohalogen flame retardants, which include brominated as well as chlorinated com- pounds, and their use in furnishings and upholstery, and how the American Chemistry Council's North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA) still pushes them. They have a whole website full of Flame Retardant facts to attack the CPSC and to keep flame retardants on the market, because they sell them by the ton.
One of the three companies behind the NAFRA is Albemarle, which was described in The Nation:
Like other makers of dangerous chemicals, Albemarle has stayed one step ahead of the law and public outrage by perfecting a cynical version of the classic bait-and-switch scam. When regulators ban one flame retardant because of its undeniable health impacts, the manufacturers simply tweak a molecule here and there to produce a similar but legally distinct product. Then they give that product a new name and hustle it back onto the market.
Another company in NAFRA is ICL, which extracts bromine from the Dead Sea in Israel.
Flame retardants do not chemically bind with plastic and leach out, which is how they get into our dust bunnies. According to the Toxic TV Binge study,
Research in the Boston area found that rooms with more consumer electronics products containing brominated flame retardants had higher levels of deca-BDE in dust, suggesting the electron- ics were the source. In that study, high levels of the flame retardants in televisions were especially important as a source. A Toronto study found that electronics were the main source in rooms with the highest concentrations of flame retardants in dust. A 2016 study using wipes of electronics found that the flame retardants detected in the wipes at the highest levels were also present in dust at higher levels.
TreeHugger has long called for a rethink about flame retardants, suggesting instead that every residential unit should have fire sprinklers. Firefighters say the same thing; they worry about flame retardants.
"The International Association of Firefighters supports bans on these chemicals because firefighters have been shown to be at much higher risk of cancer, heart, lung and other debilitating diseases caused by the dangerous gases created when fire retardants burn. If you are in your home when a fire starts, you are exposed to them too."
I don't know if we should go back to building televisions out of wood, but I do know that if we didn't use so much plastic, we wouldn't need fire retardants. Natural materials don't burn in the same way as plastics do. It is time to get plastics, and the flame retardants they are filled with, out of our homes. And it's time for Amazon and Best Buy to stop selling toxic TVs. Last word to Erika Schreder, science director with Toxic-Free Future:
When a family sits down in front of the TV to relax, the last thing they are considering is possible toxic chemical exposure from their latest electronics purchase. Manufacturers and retailers should heed the warning of CPSC and provide their customers peace of mind that they’re not exposing their families to harmful chemicals.