May 31, 2012

Do You Consider Flame Retardants When You Buy Furniture?

I've known about flame retardants in children's pajamas for a long time. However, a recent storm of articles has emerged discussing the presence of flame retardants in furniture. It got me thinking: how much of my house is filled with those chemicals?

Flame retardants were designed to slow the progress of a fire. However, it appears the chemical companies who designed the tests "grossly manipulated" the data. The data they used to flaunt the increased amount of time to escape a fire are based on higher levels of chemicals than have ever been included in consumer goods. Studies by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have concluded that the amount of flame retardants required by law provide no meaningful protection from deadly fires. In addition, a flammability scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Donald Lucas, conducted independent studies and found that flame retardants made no apparent impact on flammability at all.

The problem Chemists are finding is that the chemicals don't stay in your sofa. They end up in the dust in your house, the blood stream and even breast milk. Some of these chemicals have caused cancer in lab animals, and studies suggest that they can lead to abnormal brain development in humans.

I hadn't really thought about my big comfy chair that way before. But it turns out that old furniture (within a decade or so) could be very unsafe, as the most dangerous carcinogens had not been removed from flame retardants yet. Newer furniture (within the last two or so years) has been rid of some of the worst chemicals. But if you like antiques, they seem to be the cleanest route so far. Check your furniture, anything that contains foam also is loaded with flame retardants.

Do you think you'll take this into consideration the next time you buy a couch?

___________ _ ___________

Image courtesy of:

1. Photo by Sarah Dalton


  1. Yeah, I don't think I'm going to throw out my current couch, but I'll definitely take this (and other similar concerns) into account when buying furniture in the future.