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:
- You can’t tell if they are in the furniture you have bought and
- 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:
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.