- The current Furniture Regulations will remain in place for at least another 9 years
- Children's mattresses will continue to contain high levels of flame retardants for another 9 years
- The UK will continue to illicitly dispose of around 90m kgs of toxic flame retardants a year
"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 toxic retardant deca-BDE to be banned, under European law, from sale. Instead of prohibiting all such dangerous, persistent organic chemicals in furniture, the UK government has allowed one hazardous pollutant to be replaced by others (TCEP, TCPP and TDCP)."
At the same time George was drafting this article, I was at a meeting with the OPSS. This followed them stopping me from entering their stakeholder workshop earlier this month. Instead they invited me to a "special" meeting, i.e. without any other stakeholders present that might hear a few things the OPSS would rather they didn't.
So I turned up at their headquarters in an office block in Birmingham ten minutes early. A security man was waiting for me in the lobby and escorted me upstairs to the OPSS. Then he walked me to the meeting room about the size of a police interrogation room. On one side of a small table were three OPSS officials and on the other side was a single chair for me.
The lead official indicated said she would go through the slides they'd presented at the earlier workshop. This was a clear time-wasting tactic so I interrupted politely to say that since they'd only given this meeting an hour (despite me asking for two), I wanted to keep to key points at least to begin with. I said I'd seen the slides and would be happy to go into detail if there was time, for example to explain why so much of the content was clearly misinformed.
I began by listing my credentials where this subject was concerned, including the many events I'd been invited to speak at over the past few years or so and the key groups that have asked me to advise them. A lot of good people trust me, in other words. I didn't ask them to return the favour because, well, that might have been embarassing.
I inserted a little test for the OPSS. I told them that just yesterday, a conversation had taken place amongst experts around the world, initiated by my FBU colleagues. We were discussing how exactly toxicity is produced by flame retardants and the materials they affect when they burn. Probably no one has coordinated such information before.
Silence. Bear in mind that this is a vital subject for the OPSS to know about if in the very short time they've allocated they are to come up with their new "Essential Safety Requirements".
The thing is, if they really cared about fire and chemical safety they would have been all over me to have a record of the conversation, get in contact with the experts, take the subject further with them. Exactly how I used to be when leading these regulations.
Then again, they clearly failed to notice what their silence signified.
I then raised what I said was the key question: do you believe the current regulations provide fire safety and if so where's your evidence?
You can read a transcript of the first part of this debate here. But it probably won't surprise you to learn that they refused to provide a straight answer, despite me putting the same question in as many different ways as possible. And the answer is very important, given that they admitted that they are going to keep the current regulations in place until they have new ones, which will be at least another 9 years.
The fact is this point embodies a massive contradiction, I told them. On the one hand, they're saying that the current regulations provide fire safety; on the other, they're saying they need to come up with fire safety. And the first part is further contradicted by the fact that the evidence these regulations don't work is on their own website.
If in reading the transcription, you find yourself feeling sorry for "SS", don't be. She's extremely well-paid and apparently feels nothing at all about the fact she is consigning the entire UK population, including children, to several more years of sitting and sleeping on flammable products packed with flame retardants that are poisoning us all. Worse, while she's happy enough to claim the status of being the lead official on these regulations, whenever I asked her for her view on a key issue she said that it wasn't for her to answer.
She won't even implement the Environmental Audit Committee's recommendation 7 months ago to get children's products out of scope immediately. This despite one of the fire fighters getting a unanimous agreement to this at the recent OPSS workshop, even from the flame retardant producers (who clearly realise the game is up in this respect at least). She didn't even record the agreement in a meeting note. There wasn't even a meeting note. And now she has made the decision to keep known toxins in children's mattresses for at least another 9 years. No one else wants this. Why does she and the OPSS? There's only one reason I can think of: to cover their backs. They failed to put these regulations right 7 years ago and now must at all costs conceal the fact. Why can't they at least protect children? Because in their minds, taking children's mattresses, prams, buggies etc out of scope is the thin edge of the wedge. Next, adults might demand not to be poisoned too. Then the game would be up. Their careers and pensions might be slightly inconvenienced, a much more important issue than children getting cancers.
On the government's main website in June last year, it announced that the woman keeping children poisoned in their own homes, was awarded the OBE "for services to business and consumers". At least they got that in the right order of priority.