TVs sold by Amazon and Best Buy ‘contain chemicals banned in Europe’


Popular brands of televisions sold by Amazon and Best Buy in the US contain potentially hazardous flame retardants linked to health problems including cancers and learning difficulties, according to a new report. Six Toshiba and Insignia brand TVs, made in partnership with Amazon and Best Buy respectively, sampled by public health campaign groups contained organohalogens, which are flame retardant chemicals recently banned by the European commission over safety concerns. Organohalogens are considered toxic and have been linked to certain cancers, harm to the nervous system and learning difficulties. The European ban, which encompasses other display-based appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines – will come into force in 2021. There is no such wide ban in the US, although deca-BDE, a type of organohalogen flame retardant, is banned in five states. The TVs tested by a coalition of public health advocates found that the Insignia TVs contained deca-BDE. Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, said it was “critical that large companies step up and safeguard their customers. If government won’t act, it’s up to the business community to mind the store. “Why are Best Buy and Amazon allowing these dangerous, old-school flame retardants to be used in televisions that are supposed to be top-of-the-line? Safer alternatives exist, so organohalogen flame retardants have no place in our homes in 2019.” In a statement, Best Buy defended its “long track record as a steward of the environment” and said it “fully supported the responsible use of chemicals above what is legally required”. It said the units in this report included recycled materials which it said regulators recognise as “important” and “allow for trace amounts of some chemicals in electronics housings”. It added that the units tested were not from its newer lines. Chemicals from the casings of TVs can leak into the air or into dust that accumulates around the home, causing a gradual build-up in people’s bodies. While it is difficult to blame the flame retardants on any specific case of illness, campaigners say that enough concern has been raised in studies over potential links that a ban is justified. The sampling of the TVs – on behalf of a coalition of campaign groups including Toxic Free Future, Mind the Store and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families – involved removing small pieces of the plastic casings and sending them to a lab in the Netherlands for testing. The Insignia TVs were purchased from a Best Buy in the Seattle area, while the Amazon sets were bought online. The testing found that all six TVs contained organohalogens as their primary flame retardants, with all three Insignia TVs containing the deca-BDE chemical. In 2017, the US Consumer Product Safety Commissioned urged electronics manufactures to reduce use of organohalogens in plastic casings, as well as in other products such as furniture and mattresses. A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the agency proposed a rule in June that would ban the manufacture and distribution of deca-BDE and products that contain it, including TVs, bar a few exceptions. Campaigners say that the agency should hurry up and implement a full ban. “I don’t anticipate any quick move to address the problem of toxic chemicals – it’s mainly been left down to the states to act,” said Erika Schreder, science director with Toxic Free Future. “As a consumer there’s no way to choose a TV that is safer. People are being put at unnecessary risk given that there are safer alternatives available.” Amazon did not respond to a request to comment. Best Buy said it had “a restricted substances list that our suppliers must adhere to”. It added: “For organisations to assert otherwise is both inaccurate and irresponsible. “Regulatory bodies recognise the importance of recycling and allow for trace amounts of some chemicals in electronics housings made from recycled material. The units in this report – which haven’t been part of our new product assortment for some time – do include recycled material.”

The Guardian, 24 October 2019