Twenty-five years ago, scientists gathered in a government lab and set fire to chairs, TVs and electrical cables packed with flame retardants. For the next half-hour, they carefully measured how much the chemicals slowed the blaze.
It was one of the largest studies of its kind, and the chemical industry seized upon it, claiming the results showed that flame retardants gave people a 15-fold increase in time to escape fires.
Manufacturers of flame retardants would repeatedly point to this government study as key proof that these toxic chemicals - embedded in many common household items - prevented residential fires and saved lives.
Vytenis Babrauskas, has said industry officials have "grossly distorted" the findings of his research, which was not based on real-world conditions.
The small amounts of flame retardants in typical home furnishings, he said, offer little to no fire protection.
"Industry has used this study in ways that are improper and untruthful,"
The misuse of Babrauskas' work is but one example of how the chemical industry has manipulated scientific findings to promote the widespread use of flame retardants and downplay the health risks
industry has twisted research results, ignored findings that run counter to their aims and passed off biased, industry-funded reports as rigorous science.
resulting in the chemical industry successfully distorted the basic knowledge about toxic chemicals that are used in consumer products and linked to serious health problems, including cancer, developmental problems, neurological deficits and impaired fertility.