Dayle Laing

The ‘coolest shade of green’ is the sustainable choice. Dayle Laing is a Professional Speaker and Author who uses her experience and training as an educator, a designer and a LEED Accredited Professional to empower Conscious Consumers to make practical yet beautiful choices for sustainable living, reducing their carbon footprint while enhancing their body, mind & spirit.

killer_whale_300.jpg“What do killer whales and Canadian women have in common? Scientific evidence reveals that the bodies of killer whales and Canadian women share the dubious distinction of being among the world’s leaders as receptacles for a group of toxic industrial chemicals known as brominated flame-retardants.”  1

Interior designers and decorators know we need to use flame retardant fabrics in commercial (contract) interior projects, even though the standards vary slightly in different locations. They are a good idea for residential projects if clients smoke in the home.

whale_interpretive_centre_jaime_150.jpgOne of the highlights of my recent sailing trip was a stop in Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island, Canada, where I met Jaime, an Australian marine biologist in the fin_whale_skeleton_300.jpgWhale Interpretive Centre. Amidst amazingly huge skeletons of whales, she explained the declining Killer (Orca) whale population and their susceptibility to environmental toxins such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Females can live to 60-80 years since they are thought to transfer toxins out of their bodies to their offspring when they nurse. Male Orcas live on average 40–60 years because they have no way of eliminating the toxins. The decline in the male and therefore overall population is of particular concern.

(To see more whale photos and read the rest of the story, click on 'read more'.)

North American fabric suppliers and converters routinely apply PBDEs (primarily the deca form) to interior design fabrics to achieve the required fire codes. The Canadian government acknowledges that PBDEs are persistent and toxic, impair brain development, cause liver damage and possibly cause cancer, yet still have not banned the use of all forms, only the 3 most toxic forms. They do however admit that the deca form breaks down in the body to the most toxic forms! Nordic countries, that many years ago limited the use of these toxic chemicals, have seen a substantial decline in human accumulation in a short time. Cost effective alternatives are available. 1,2,3

killer_whales_500A few days later on my sailing trip, I joined Bill Mackay from Port McNeill on his boat, the Naiad Explorer for a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience of Orca whale watching. These lovely mammals can reach 30 feet (9m) long and each pod has their own distinctive vocalization. As we bobbed quietly on the calm ocean and listened to the whales through Bill’s hydrophones, the plight of these magnificent animals was brought home. What a rare priviledge to be able to see, hear and photograph them.

My suggestion is for designers to specify fabrics that are inherently flame retardant. Of course, each fabric must be tested and labeled accordingly. We should never assume! Many wools and silks, as protein fibres, will pass the tests. Polyesters, nylons, modacrylics and aramids will often pass due to their high melting temperatures. A tighter fabric weave of these fibres does not support combustion as easily.

When you have a choice, do select an inherently flame retardant (FR) fabric as opposed to one that has a chemical finish applied to either the fabric or the fibre. You, your client and the whales will be happier!

1. Boyd D.R., Wallace S.S., “Fireproof Whales and Contaminated Mother’s Milk – The Inadequacy of Canada’s Proposed PBDE Regulations”, David Suzuki Foundation, October, 2006
2. Madsen T, Lee S, Olle T, “Growing Threats: Toxic Flame Retardants and Children’s Health”, Environment California Research and Policy Center, March 2003
3. Environment Canada CEPA Environmental Registry Current Regulations for PBDEs:

For more information or to book a textile seminar that explains flame retardant finishes as well as other sustainable 'green' textile concerns, please contact the office: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


killer_whales_5_300.jpg  killer_whale_breeching_wave_300.jpg




Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Dear Dayle,<br />Once again you hit the right, key note. To earn a living, never loosing track of protecting our precious<br />environment, that's the way.<br />Helene

Helene Combret
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The skipper and commodore, owners of the S/V Evita, our 32' C&C sailboat, have awarded to Dayle and David Laing the coveted "Best Crew Award" for 2009! They were a delight to have on board, and I'm sure the orcas pictured above would agree. ...

The skipper and commodore, owners of the S/V Evita, our 32' C&C sailboat, have awarded to Dayle and David Laing the coveted "Best Crew Award" for 2009! They were a delight to have on board, and I'm sure the orcas pictured above would agree. After our best crew departed, we saw this same pod further east in Johnstone Strait. They had rounded up a school of salmon, and were feeding happily - including the two babies. They are truly magnificent animals!<br /><br />Thanks John,<br />The pleasure was all ours! Such a fine vessel, fine captain, and fine commodore!<br />Dayle

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