Brominated flame retardants are bio-accumulative, endocrine disruptors, and possibly kill more than they save, linked to cancer in firefighters. But they are still required in your furniture, thanks to some of the best lobbyists in the business.
Now there may be an alternative to the brominated flame retardants; Jaime C. Grunlan of Texas A&M have developed a new flame retardant for polyurethane foam, the stuff that most of our cushions are made of. Vegans won't like the stuff; it's made from " polyvinylsulfonic acid (PVS) and chitosan, a long carbohydrate molecule derived from the shells of shrimp and other crustaceans. " But everyone else will. Prachi Patel of Chemical and Engineering News explains:
The researchers tested the flame retardant properties of the coating by exposing treated foam to a flame from a butane torch for 10 seconds. While uncoated foam burned up completely, the fire on the coated foam went out once the researchers turned off the torch. It would take more than three times as much conventional flame-retardant material by weight to achieve the same effect, Grunlan says. He explains that when the PVS burns it gives off vapors of sulfur oxides, which are nonflammable. “This creates a gas blanket on the foam surface, cutting off oxygen and starving the fire,” he says.