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.
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 recognize 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.
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 organizations to assert otherwise is both inaccurate and irresponsible.
“Regulatory bodies recognize 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.”
Chemicals from the casings of TVs can leak into the air or into dust that accumulates around the home, causing a gradual buildup 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.