For the past few years, newspapers have featured stories on the allegedly dire risks of flame retardants, and environmental activists are pushing for government bans and regulations. Keep the kids off those “toxic couches” they say, if you care at all about them. Never mind the fact that these trace chemicals in the foam have never been shown to hurt anyone. But when they are not there, life threatening fires move quickly!

A recent article in a UK paper highlights how one fire quickly got out of control as it burned an old chair that was never treated with flame retardants, killing a 68 year old man. The firefighters’ investigation concluded that the primary cause of the fire developing was the non-flame retardant foam in the chair.  The paper reported:

Cumbria’s Assistant Chief Fire Officer Adrian Buckle said: “This tragedy highlights the importance of fire retardant furniture, cushions and bedding.

“Fire can spread incredibly quickly and it takes hold much more rapidly if it involves older items that don’t conform to current fire safety standards.

“I’d urge people to check items around their home to make sure they are fire retardant and look at updating them if possible.

“Replacing out of date furniture does not need to be a major expense – many second hand furniture stores and social enterprises such as Impact stock furniture that meets modern fire safety standards.”

After the incident firefighters carried out a test on the chair and burned quickly, giving off thick toxic black smoke and it dripped burning droplets.’

The lesson here is pretty simple: Following green advice to eliminate flame retardants is likely to prove deadly.