HBO s Toxic Hot Seat is toxic all right: it seems to have addled Kristof s brain

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New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, in his latest opus entitled Danger Lurks in That Mickey Mouse Couch wait, did he really say that? Anyway, Nick has gone off the rails again, intoxicated by the siren song of an HBO special on tonight (Monday, November 25th), similarly entitled Toxic Hot Seat. The producers of that documentary have the following brief to promote: household furniture (including any Mickey Mouse couches, one assumes) are laden with toxic chemicals brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are in the spotlight this time and their dangers are being covered up by their manufacturers and the chemical industry trade group, the American Chemistry Council. Further as if these facts were not damning enough the industry is echoing the evil tactics of Big Tobacco (20th century variety) by creating controversy about the devastating health impacts of BFRs where none rightly exist and standing in the way of sensible, protective regulation. And, they go on, the stuff doesn t even retard fires, either!

Except that this Kristof-Toxic Hot Seat baloney is all phony, agenda-driven anti-chemical mythology dressed up nice to look fact-based. We ve heard it all before, and these chemophobes believe that if you repeat something often enough, eventually it becomes fact. But here are the real facts (easily obtained from ACSH s publication on this exact subject):

*BFRs do slow down deadly fires;

*BFRs have not been shown to be harmful to humans in the exposures we get from household products, although studies have shown increasing levels of these chemicals in our bodies.

*There is no evidence whatsoever that the firefighters, who are coming down with rare cancers according to Kristof, are in fact getting sick from BFRs or even that they are suffering from higher rates of any disease, compared to the general population. He just plumb made that up.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross had this perspective: We here at ACSH wonder when the public will get alarm fatigue from these scurrilous hackneyed tactics: Just yell endocrine disruptor , protect the children, and cancer loud enough, and then refer to Big Tobacco, and the game is over. Not so fast, let s do a little fact-checking first. Even the ACC, a chemical trade group, seems to have been dumbfounded by these attacks. In their response, they refer to the dreadful toll of fires in America each year. And while the toll is tragic, certainly, they chose not to address the false accusation that BFRs are somehow harmful to health, which should have really been the core of their argument. I defy anyone to document a human study showing adverse health effects from BFR exposure I won t hold my breath waiting for the citation however.