HBO’s ‘Toxic Hot Seat’ explores the danger lurking in your home

Text goes here. Credit goes here.
“Toxic Hot Seat” premieres Nov. 25 at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Courtesy of HBO

Our couches almost beckon to us after work — safe spaces in which we can curl up and wind down. But that cushion of yours may not be such a safe place to sit after all. Eighty to 90 percent of upholstered couches with polyurethane foam sold in the U.S. over the past 37 years contain chemical flame-retardants, say the filmmakers of HBO’s new documentary “Toxic Hot Seat.” The scary ingredients are linked to cancer, reproduction abnormalities and lowered intelligence in children. The piece delves into the multi-billion dollar chemical industry, with expert testimony that a product supposedly engineered to stop house fire fatalities doesn’t work. According to the movie, everyday chemical flame-retardants have damaged more people than they’ve saved — especially firefighters who work among the chemicals when they are burning and highly volatile.

Tony Stefani, a retired San Francisco Fire Department Captain and founder of the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation, spoke to Metro about his diagnosis with kidney cancer. He says cancers among his colleagues are all too common as well.

“Soon it seemed like we were going to firefighters’ funerals every other month,” he says.

The greatest irony is that these flame-retardants are proven not to reduce fatalities. The initial testing of their effectiveness was “dubious at best,” says Stefani. “The test in the documentary shows that the flame retardant-treated foam is equally flammable.”

Dr. Sarah Janssen of San Francisco Physicians for Social Responsibility agrees. ““There is no real life-saving benefit,” she says. “The film is coming at the right time. Awareness needs to be raised. There are hundreds of these chemicals used and only a small fraction have been shown to be safe. The most worrying is the effect on children’s IQ, which is very similar to lead exposure. It’s done much damage.”

Stefani worries about the longterm effect of the chemicals.

“You can replace your couch, but what happens then? The chemicals don’t go away. They’re still out there, and these chemical companies are producing tons and tons more each day.”

Dr. Janssen says that efforts to rid products of harmful chemicals often lead to more issues. “The problem is, as one bad chemical is banned, the chemical industry replaces it with another,” she says. “We just can’t go on like this. Consumers need to drive greater change. We need to lobby our state represnetatives. It can be done. The BPA issue was driven by consumers, and look how quickly manufacturers reacted and that changed.”

In the meantime, Dr. Janssen advises limiting exposure to these chemicals when possible. “Don’t eat on the couch,” she says. “The chemicals mix with dust and we pick them up on our hands constantly. Wet-mop and wet-dust, otherwise you’re just whisking up toxic dust. Also, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Cover your couch with a blanket or sheet to limit the amount of dust that’s kicked up.”

Learn more about protecting you and your family at www.psr.org.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Is #JusticeForAvaLynn a case of bullying?

On Saturday, the hashtag #JusticeForAvaLynn became one of the trending topics on Twitter. Users circulated the above photo of 5-year-old AvaLynn, posted by her mother…

International

Terrorism could spread to US and Europe in…

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said terrorism would soon spread to Europe and the United States unless it is quickly dealt with in the Middle East,…

National

Ex-Bitcoin official to plead guilty to Silk Road…

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem has reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of…

International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

Gossip

Joan Rivers on life support: Report

TMZ reports that comedian Joan Rivers has been placed on life support, "completely reliant on machines to stay alive." Rivers has been hospitalized since she…

Movies

What's new on Netflix in September

September has a supernatural theme for Netflix. UFO "documentaries" and the survivalist reality series "Doomsday Preppers" are among the new series coming to the online…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Wellbeing

VIDEO: Still not wearing sunscreen? You will after…

Sunscreen is possibly the most often repeated - and ignored - piece of skincare advice. But Thomas Leveritt took a different tactic. With a short…

Food

Twitter used to track down sources of food…

When Chicago health officials saw Twitter users complaining about local food poisoning episodes, they reached out on Twitter to those users and often ended up…

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…