The use of chemicals is common throughout many phases of furniture manufacturing. But thanks to California Senate Bill 1019 passed into law last year, consumers now have choices when it comes to whether their furniture’s upholstery contains flame-retarding chemicals. This new law requires that the labels on all upholstered furniture produced beginning in 2015 indicate the presence of any toxic flame-retardant chemicals.
Why is this important?
While the effects of newer types of flame-retarding chemicals in our bodies have not yet been widely studied, tests of some of the earlier ones—like PBDEs, which are now banned but still prevalent in foam-containing products purchased before 2005—indicate possible links to cancer, altered hormones and neurological effects.
The types of flame-retarding chemicals used by manufacturers can vary, but a 2012 study showed that some form of them was found in nearly all U.S. couches tested. These chemicals can easily migrate out of the polyurethane foam that comprises the comfortable cushioning and wind up in dust throughout your home. Toddlers, who crawl on the floor and put their hands in their mouths, are particularly susceptible.
But now, the California law allows that state’s flammability standard to include physical as well as chemical blocks, meaning consumers have choices. And because California is such a large market, it’s likely that manufacturers will adopt the practice for other states, too.
Stores that have already begun phasing out the use of flame retardants include:
Planning on purchasing upholstered furniture soon? Look for this label under the cushions or the bottom of the item:
How important is it to you that consumers have choices when it comes to the types of chemicals that enter our homes? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!
The Atlantic: Where to Buy a Safe Couch
Scientific American: Flame Retardants on the Rise in Furniture
EWG: California Makes it Law: Label Toxic Flame Retardants in Furniture
NRDC: Want to avoid toxic couch chemicals? Just look for new label!