Public Webinar on Flame Retardants in Furniture Foam



By Gina Daniel and Catherine Kastleman


On Monday, September 26, Dr. Heather Stapleton and Dr. Ellen Cooper, with the support of the Duke Superfund Research Translation Core, held a webinar for participants and parties interested in our furniture foam flame retardant (FR) screening study.  The purpose of this webinar was to update study participants on our current research findings, answer frequently asked questions from participants, and share methods for reducing personal exposure to FRs.  The event was well attended, with over 180 people tuned in to the webinar, including representatives from government, industry, and academic and non-profit organizations.


Dr. Stapleton opened the webinar with an introduction to the project and some background information on why flame retardants are used in furniture. Dr. Cooper then explained the laboratory procedures for foam analysis and summarized the important findings that were published in a recent paper in Environmental Science and Technology titled, Results from Screening Polyurethane Foam Based Consumer Products for Flame Retardant Chemicals: Assessing Impacts on the Change in the Furniture Flammability Standards. Dr. Stapleton then described the common flame retardants for which the lab screens, their potential health impacts, and offered methods for reducing exposure to household flame retardants, such as exchanging furniture with known flame retardants, washing hands frequently, and dusting with a wet towel as well as vacuuming frequently.


The last segment of the webinar was a question and answer session with Dr. Stapleton. Some of the common questions that were answered in this webinar include:

  • Which manufacturers are still using flame retardants in furniture?
  • Which flame retardant is most toxic?
  • How are the results of the foam testing shared?
  • What are the limitations in testing textiles for flame retardants?


Since 2014, the Analytical Chemistry Core of the Superfund Research Center, led by Dr. Stapleton, has offered free screening for samples of polyurethane foam from household furniture to test for the presence of seven common flame retardants.  Over 1,300 samples have been analyzed to date – please see the recent findings summary at the bottom of this post. To read more about the current study results, find resources, or submit your own sample, please visit:


If you missed the presentation, the slides and recording will be available at