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
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.