Action Alert

Fair trade or free trade? Let your voice be heard on Minnesota’s future!

The Obama Administration is negotiating two new mega trade deals (one with Pacific Rim countries, another with Europe) entirely in secret, with the goal of further expanding the NAFTA-model of free trade. These trade agreements could have major impacts on Minnesota's farmers, workers, small business owners and rural communities. They could limit Minnesota’s ability to support local food and energy systems and grow local businesses. In order to stay up to speed, Minnesota has set up a new Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) to advise the state legislature and Governor.

TPAC wants to hear from Minnesotans: What concerns do you have about free trade? What role could TPAC play in the future? Now is your opportunity to have a say in our future trade policy. Complete the survey and let them know future trade negotiations should be public, not secret. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the development of trade agreements and that they protect local control and our quality of life. The free trade model has failed for Minnesota and we need a new approach to trade. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard before trade agreements are completed, and that they protect local control, our natural resources and our quality of life.

Please take five minutes and complete the survey. To find out more about these trade agreements, go to

Toxic flame retardants in household dust and couches

Posted November 28, 2012 by    


Two new studies published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology document routine exposure to toxic flame retardants in household dust and furniture. The first study, conducted by the Silent Spring Institute, found 55 chemicals in household dust, including chlorinated tris, a carcinogen, at levels exceeding EPA health guidelines. HBCD (HBCYD), listed as priority chemical in Minnesota, was found in every home. Because the study included dust samples from 2006 and 2011, it documented changes in flame retardant use over time. For example, penta-BDE was phased out of use in polyurethane foam in 2005, after it was found to be persistent, toxic and build up in the environment, food system and human body, but it was been replaced with alternatives that are themselves problematic. Levels of penta-replacement chemical, Firemaster 550, increased in 2011. This is concerning because safety data on Firemaster 550 are lacking and there is evidence of reproductive harm. Another toxic chemical found in household dust, chlorinated tris, is also a penta-replacement in foam used in infant products like breastfeeding pillows and changing table mats.

The second study illustrates one source of some toxic flame retardants in household dust. The researchers tested foam samples from 102 couches around the nation, including two from Minnesota. The couch study found that 85 percent of U.S. couches tested contained toxic or untested flame retardant chemicals. It also found that 41 percent of the couches contained the same cancer-causing chlorinated tris, also known as TDCPP, including one of the Minnesota couches tested. Emily Moore, the owner of that couch, noted, “When I bought a new couch a few years ago, I had no idea I was going to be exposing my family to chlorinated tris, a chemical that was removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s as a mutagen and likely carcinogen. Why should I have to worry about letting my little granddaughter sit and lie on that couch? It's crazy.“

We should be concerned. The chemicals found in household dust and couches include those that persist and build up in the environment, as well as carcinogens, hormone disrupters and developmental toxins. Some of these chemicals are listed as chemicals of high concern in Minnesota, including HBCD, deca-BDE, chlorinated tris (TDCPP), brominated tris (TDBPP) and others.

Beyond concern, we need action to protect our families and to protect public health.  For tips on reducing your exposure to flame retardant chemicals in the home, see the Silent Spring and Healthy Legacy websites.

While it’s important to take precautions as consumers, we also need fundamental reform of chemical regulation at both the state and federal levels. The Safe Chemicals Act would require basic safety data on all chemicals to assure that manufacturers are not replacing one toxic chemical with another and to phase out the worst chemicals that build up in our food. In Minnesota, we can pass the next phase of the Toxic Free Kids Act to require the phase out of priority chemicals in children’s products. Sign up to receive information or get involved.

       Sign up for our free newsletter!