Do Fire Retardants Work? And Since They Don't, Why is Their Use Mandated in Furniture?


Dr. David Heimbach knows how to tell a story.

Before California lawmakers last year, the noted burn surgeon drew gasps from the crowd as he described a 7-week-old baby girl who was burned in a fire started by a candle while she lay on a pillow that lacked flame retardant chemicals.

"Now this is a tiny little person, no bigger than my Italian greyhound at home," said Heimbach, gesturing to approximate the baby's size. "Half of her body was severely burned. She ultimately died after about three weeks of pain and misery in the hospital."

Heimbach's passionate testimony about the baby's death made the long-term health concerns about flame retardants voiced by doctors, environmentalists and even firefighters sound abstract and petty.

But there was a problem with his testimony: It wasn't true.

Great (read: depressing) Chicago Tribune story about rent-seeking by makers of flame retardants that get used in furniture foam and other products, all under EPA and other governmental agencies approval.

Whole story.

Hat Tip: Alan Vanneman.