Zac Trahan, Statewide Program Director
We are celebrating another victory as Pier 1 Imports has publicly announced its decision to phase out toxic flame retardant chemicals in furniture for sale on its shelves. This will benefit all Texans – and people across North America – by helping to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals that can affect human health.
Together with a national campaign for safer chemicals called Mind the Store, we have been pressuring Pier 1 (based in Fort Worth!) with a letter-writing campaign and an online petition directed at CEO Alex Smith. Then we delivered letters and petitions during a demonstration at the company’s downtown headquarters – and Pier 1 executives responded within hours, saying they no longer allow their suppliers to make furniture with flame retardant chemicals. The company revised its website and posted its stated policy against flame retardants for the first time.
To be clear, this is a big victory. Pier 1 has absolutely done the right thing by committing to sell safer furniture – which shouldn’t be riddled with chemicals that escape into household dust and then enter our bodies. We’re glad this Texas-based company is taking action immediately.
And they’re not alone: Pier 1 is just the latest major retailer to go public with a change to its chemicals policy. Activists have secured similar commitments from companies such as Macy’s, Ashley Furniture and IKEA. The Mind the Store campaign is pressing other retailers to follow suit. Here’s what Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families had to say:
“Thank you to Pier 1 Imports for taking a stand against toxic flame retardants in furniture.” The company should take the next step and evaluate how they can tackle other toxic chemicals in products they carry. We hope other big retailers such as Berkshire Hathaway’s furniture stores will join Pier 1 Imports in getting toxic flame retardants out of furniture once and for all.”
For nearly four decades, controversial flame retardants were required in furniture in the state of California to prevent fires. As pressure mounted on tobacco companies to create fire-safe cigarettes, they responded by aggressively lobbying for this furniture chemicals requirement instead. As a result, many national furniture companies added these chemicals to their products in every state. But recent evidence suggests that the chemicals do not effectively protect against fires – and they can actually cause more harm than good, contributing to more toxic soot and smoke during fires and releasing chemicals into dust during everyday use. (Read more about this in our prior blog post, here!)
California changed its law so toxic flame retardants are not required, but they still allowed. Federal law doesn’t prohit these chemicals either. (In 2011, TCE helped defeat state legislation that would have required toxic flame retardants in furniture here.) In response, the furniture industry as a whole seems to be phasing them out, but there is still furniture for sale with the fire retardants.
That’s why safer chemical advocates, including our organization, have been urging top retailers to accelerate the change by using their market power effectively. By telling their suppliers to remove these chemicals, retailers can help “slam the door” on the use of flame retardants in all furniture in the future.
However, in the meantime, many retailers – including Pier 1 – have older furniture for sale that have toxic flame retardants. So check labels and ask questions if you’re in the market for upholstered furniture. More info is available here and here.
We think of our homes, our living rooms and bedrooms as places for us to relax. Safe havens. But we can’t count on outdated, inadequate federal chemical safety laws to make that a reality. We can’t count on corporate leaders to take protective action out of the blue. Sometimes they need a little push. We’re glad that Pier 1 has taken this step, and we plan to continue with this strategy with other retailers.
Want to take action now? Send a message to Best Buy urging company officials to phase out toxic flame retardants in all the electronics they sell. Add your little push! Together we will succeed.
Statewide Program Director
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