Toxic TV Binge: Hazardous flame retardant chemicals found in Best Buy and Amazon TVs

Toxic flame retardants leaching from TVs into living rooms across North America

Toronto, Ont. – A coalition of environmental health advocacy groups in the U.S. and Canada today released new research revealing toxic flame retardant chemicals in the plastic components of six TVs under the Toshiba and Insignia brands sold by Best Buy and Amazon.

The investigation, Toxic TV Binge, uncovered organohalogen flame retardants, the worst class of flame retardants, in all six TVs purchased in Washington state — three Best Buy Insignia Roku TVs and three Toshiba (Hisense) Fire TVs produced in partnership with Amazon.

“Why are Best Buy and Amazon allowing these dangerous, antiquated flame retardants to be used in televisions that are supposed to be top-of-the-line?” says Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “Organohalogen flame retardant chemicals are so dangerous that they were just outlawed in Europe. Safer alternatives exist, so flame retardants have no place in our homes in 2019.” 

One Insignia TV contained deca-BDE, an organohalogen flame retardant that was declared toxic under Canadian law in 2005 and has been banned from manufacturing and import since 2016 – imported manufactured goods such as TVs are exempt from this ban. Washington State, Maryland, Maine, Oregon, and Vermont have banned deca-BDE from products. Earlier this month, the European Union finalized a ban on all organohalogen flame retardants in electronics displays, including TVs. 

Scientific research links many organohalogen flame retardants to cancer, harm to the nervous system, hormone disruption, and other health problems. Some of these chemicals also pose a threat to marine animals including the endangered Southern Resident orcas off Canada’s west coast.

“Flame retardants don’t stay in the products they are added to,” says Muhannad Malas, Toxics Program Manager with Environmental Defence Canada. “Scientists have detected troubling levels of these chemicals in indoor air and dust, in the bodies of children and pregnant women, and in the fat tissue of iconic mammals including whales and polar bears.”

In 2017, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a warning to manufacturers and retailers, urging them to “eliminate the use” of organohalogen flame retardants in electronics such as TVs. In 2017 and 2018, Best Buy and Amazon respectively launched safer chemicals policies to restrict harmful chemicals in the products they sell. However, neither company has restricted the class of organohalogen flame retardants in private-label or brand-name televisions they sell, even after Best Buy received a letter from more than 50 consumer and public health organizations calling on them to do so.

“When a family sits down in front of the TV to relax, the last thing they are considering is possible toxic chemical exposure from their latest electronics purchase,” says Erika Schreder, science director with Toxic-Free Future. “Manufacturers and retailers should heed the warning of CPSC and provide their customers peace of mind that they’re not exposing their families to harmful chemicals.” 

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ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities. 

ABOUT SAFER CHEMICALS HEALTHY FAMILIES (www.SaferChemicals.org): Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families fights for strong chemical policy, works with retailers to phase out hazardous chemicals and transform the marketplace, and educates the public about ways to protect our families from toxic chemicals. The group’s Mind the Store campaign challenges the largest retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals in products and packaging and develop comprehensive safer chemicals policies. 

ABOUT TOXIC-FREE FUTURE (www.ToxicFreeFuture.org): Toxic-Free Future fights for strong health protections for people and the environment, using the powerful combination of science, advocacy, and grassroots organizing. 

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Sarah Jamal, Environmental Defence, sjamal@environmentaldefence.ca, 416-323-9521 ext. 251
Jamie Nolan, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, jamienolan@saferchemicals.org, 410-463-9869