Fire Retardants: A Concern for Cat Owners

Safe furniture for cats

Photo by DavidMartynHunt

Fire retardants are potentially a big problem in modern furniture that contains foam. It is a hidden problem unrecognised by many people to which cats are particularly vulnerable because they spend lots of time on chairs and sofas and also on the floor. The chemicals used as fire retardants are volatile and end up on the floor. Cat owners should think about buying cat-safe furniture.

I know about the potential risks fire retardants pose to our cats but pay little attention to it like most other people. There is a link between certain chemicals and feline hyperthyroidism. Some people say many cats have died because of the presence of fire retardants. Although chemicals known to be toxic have been phased out there is still a big question mark over the safety of the replacements.

There appears to a chaotic state of affairs over the safety of modern fire retardants. There are many new types of retardant and little in the way of research to reassure or inform us. What do we do?

There is little point in referring to the plethora of chemicals used because:

  1. You can’t tell if they are in the furniture you have bought and
  2. If you knew what chemicals were used and that they were in the furniture you wouldn’t know what the heath risks were because of a lack of research or the availability of the information.

The federal government of the United States is looking into the problem. In America you can purchase furniture that is made with natural materials and which does not contain fire retardants. You just have to search and ask. One supplier is greensage.com. If I was buying new furniture I would definitely do this for the sake of my cat.

This flow chart might help identify furniture in the USA that contains these chemicals:

USA - Does my furniture contain fire retardant

USA – Does my furniture contain fire retardant

In Britain it is a crime to supply furniture that is not fire resistant. I believe the regulations are the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. This begs the question as to what chemicals are used. My research indicates that these are used (source: EFRA website):

  • Tris (monochloropropyl) phosphate (TCPP),
  • Tris (dichloropropyl) Phosphate (TDCPP) and
  • Bis — (BTMCP or V6).

That means very little to me except they can be toxic to cats as far as I know. In fact, you don’t have to search very hard to understand that Tris fire retardants are toxic or at least potentially toxic. I therefore conclude that it is obligatory in the UK to make toxic furniture. If you don’t make furniture that is toxic you’re a criminal. It sounds like an upside-down world. However, that is not strictly true. Most furniture does contain these chemicals but it is possible to comply with the strict regulations and make furniture that is non-toxic.

An example of a UK manufacturer who makes non-toxic upholstered furniture is Harlands. There must others but their numbers are far outweighed by standard and mainstream suppliers who sell furniture with fire retardants.

I would like to hear from Marc in Switzerland on this subject. I would expect the organised Swiss to have a better control over it.

I believe we owe it to our cats to search for businesses selling guaranteed cat safe furniture and buy from them and also ask questions of mainstream manufacturers and retailers to ensure we buy healthy furniture for healthy cats.

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Fire Retardants: A Concern for Cat Owners — 6 Comments

  1. I don’t know anything about this although I will look into it. ….or get somebody who speaks the language to 🙂 I have a couple of old couches – 3 actually. One was made in England in the 80s and it’s a sofa bed but the cats like to go inside it and tear out the foam. There’s another old Swiss sofa bed – they don’t pull out that foam and another couch which must have foam in it but they leave that one alone. I’ll have to do something to stop them getting inside the English sofa bed. Gigi went in there for a whole night when there were fireworks outside. They love to tear out the foam from that one. It came over from my mums place in london. It was in here spare room for many years so I guess it’s not the most ideal situation. The good thing is that a sofa bed has much less foam and much more crappy spring bed mechanics and a thin mattress. Very uncomfortable to sleep on actually.

    • Maybe it is not wise to let them tear out the foam if there might be fire retardants in it. Your sofa is old so less likely to contain fire retardants. I like the fact that you allow your cats to tear a sofa apart 😉

  2. What a very interesting subject and one I must admit to not thinking about before.
    I wonder if with time the toxic in the foam lessens and is it harmful if the furniture is intact with no splits or tears in?
    As we buy nothing with any animal parts we don’t have leather furniture, we have vinyl but what is inside I have no idea.
    I need to learn more about this.

    • I don’t buy leather either – not even my shoes are made of real leather. I don’t like it. I like canvass alot better as a strong material for bags or what have you.

    • I think the subject is “under the radar” because you can’t see it and see no obvious effects. The worrying thing for me is that flame retardants are big business and big business gets its way with governments.

      Apparently the chemicals used are everywhere in nature. They are poisoning nature as well, much like the bees are being poisoned in the UK by pesticides.

  3. One problem with hazards such as this one is that people don’t have a handle on the problem. We don’t understand the effects on kids or on cats and dogs. We are not doing the work to find out probably because the manufacturers prevent it happening.

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