Friday, 20 December 2013

Consumer, Did You Know?

The right to be informed is one of the basic rights of any consumer.  However, to be informed one must be proactive and educate one’s self about one’s rights and responsibilities as a consumer.  However if we fail to inform and educate ourselves we usually make decisions that reduce our financial resources and in some instances harm our health.
The search for consumer related information is usually made more difficult by manufacturers as they try and hide certain aspects of data necessary for us as consumers to make informed choices.
How many of us for example are aware that harmful chemicals are used in household furniture? Many of us have cushions, sofas and upholstery type furniture in our homes yet we know very little about the makeup of these furniture. Flame retardant foams are usually placed inside many types of upholstery type furniture and research is now showing that exposure to these retardants is responsible for a wide range of illnesses and disorders from cancers, birth defects, infertility to hyper-activity. Interestingly there are many classes of flame retardants and these are for the most part unregulated. Polyurethane which is commonly used in upholstery furniture is one of most harmful chemicals used and constant exposure to this chemical can cause serious health issues. Two especially vulnerable groups in the society to harmful chemicals are children and nursing mothers. Polyurethane is an extremely durable and flexible synthetic material used in many household items, such as pillows and mattresses. Polyurethane is known for emitting       (VOC, s) volatile organic compounds.
Additionally, we need to ask ourselves a few questions, what is the local regulatory agency doing to keep harmful chemicals out of furniture.
Does the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) conduct tests on local and foreign made furniture to determine what chemicals are being used and whether or not these chemicals are harmful to humans? Should the BSJ ask manufacturers (local, overseas) to state what flame retardants are used in their products? Should a ban be placed on any furniture which uses harmful chemicals to humans? Be a smart shopper this Christmas, conduct your background checks and ask questions it’s your right as a consumer. Ultimately your safety and the safety of your family rest with you!