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Toxic sofas are a secret scandal – and an ‘EU red tape’ bonfire will make it worse

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Everything gets buried by Brexit – that, after all, is the point. It’s the great disrupter and the great distractor. Under the cover of chaos, essential public protections are destroyed.

Take the scandal that should be creating headlines everywhere: the toxic flame retardants now penetrating the lives of everyone in the UK. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that – as far as government and industry are concerned – is job done.

Every night, millions of children and adults sleep on mattresses treated with a class of chemicals that was long ago banned from sheepdips and pesticides. Every day, we sit on furniture containing the same toxic compounds, absorbing them through our lungs and skin. According to parliament’s environmental audit committee (EAC), mothers in the UK and the US have the world’s highest recorded concentrations of a toxic class of flame retardants in their breastmilk. Banned fire retardants have recently been discovered in umbilical cord blood. We have no clear idea of how they might affect the development and future health of foetuses. But we know that they are persistent, accumulative and associated with cancer and disruption of the hormonal and reproductive systems.

Until 2016, when he blew the whistle on spectacular malpractice within government, Terry Edge was the lead civil servant working on fire safety regulations for furniture. His research shows that, owing to decades of industry lobbying, homes in the UK have the world’s highest levels of dangerous flame retardants. It took until last year for mattresses and furniture containing the highly........

© The Guardian