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Dr. Oz: Toxic flame retardants in furniture can cause cancer, brain damage

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Dr. Oz said flame-retardant chemicals in your furniture could silently be making you and your family sick. On the Dec. 18 episode of the Dr. Oz Show, he discussed how you can avoid being poisoned by these toxic chemicals.

"[These chemicals are] in our chairs, our sofas, even in our baby furniture," said Dr. Oz. "They've been linked to birth defects, thyroid disorders and cancer."

Studies show that over 80 percent of upholstered furniture contain flame-retardant chemicals that have been linked to infertility, brain damage, hyperactivity, diminished IQ, hormone disruptions, and cancer.

The flame retardants in furniture are found in polyurethane foam, which make up the stuffing of almost all upholstered couches. "Your average couch has up to two pounds of these toxic chemicals," said Dr. Oz.

This is all due to a 1975 California law known as Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117), which required the use of flame-retardant chemicals in all furniture.

Fortunately, this law will be replaced on Jan. 1, 2014 with a new rule that allows furniture manufacturers to make retardant-free products that are safer during real fires and don't harm people's health.

To find out whether your furniture has flame retardants, Dr. Oz suggested the following:

1. Look for the TB-117 label. If your furniture has this label, it contains flame-retardant chemicals. Also, any furniture with polyurethane foam contains flame retardants.

2. Review this checklist. Flame retardants are also in other products, including children's car seats, carpet padding, electronics, children's nap mats and nursing pillows.

To avoid contact with flame retardants, Dr. Oz suggested the following:

1. Mop, vacuum and dust often. Studies show that flame-retardant chemicals seep out of furniture in the form of dust. You can minimize or avoid contact with these chemicals by dusting (preferably wet-dusting) and vacuuming often.

2. Wash your hands. Make sure you wash your hands often to prevent accidentally ingesting the flame-retardant dust, and wash your children's hands often, especially before eating.

3. Inspect foam. Be on the lookout for ripped or exposed foam on your furniture and in children's products. Get rid of any torn foams, and make sure any remaining foam is securely enclosed in a protective cover.

4. Opt for "green" furniture. Because of the growing outcry, more furniture companies are beginning to make products that don't contain chemicals. Look for labels that specifically state the furniture has not been treated with flame retardants.

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