Not very long ago, nearly all of us had toxic flame retardants in our couches, chairs, changing pads, and nap mats. The tobacco and chemical lobbies had deceived lawmakers into requiring these chemicals in all furniture and even children’s products—even though they had clearly been linked to major health problems like infertility, lowered intelligence, hyperactivity, obesity, and cancer. They did nothing to make us safer from fire. In fact, in a perverse twist, these chemicals were linked to higher rates of cancer in firefighters.

After a stunning exposé of how the tobacco and chemical lobby had lied, including front groups and false experts, CEH pushed California lawmakers to drop the requirement for flame retardants on furniture. We then moved on to transform the marketplace. CEH partnered with some of the largest institutions in the country such as Kaiser Permanente, Facebook, AutoDesk and Yahoo to demand furniture without flame retardants, harnessing over $650 million of annual purchasing power. The effort sent a clear message to furniture sellers: if they wanted business from these companies, they would need to offer safer products.

CEH helped tip the scales.  We went from having over 80% of furniture with flame retardants just four years ago to a market where more than 80% of furniture sold is now free of these toxic and unnecessary chemicals.  And we didn’t stop there – we wanted these chemicals gone from furniture altogether. In 2018, CEH pushed for and won the first statewide ban on flame retardants in furniture and children’s products in California.  Given the size of California’s market, this law will push companies to make products safer for the entire nation.

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