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Protecting Yourself from Your Furniture

Protecting Yourself from Your Furniture

I love my couch. Iíve spent many an hour with my butt firmly planted on the flame retardant treated foam cushions. It is a sectional couch with a “chez” lounge (spelled chaise by people other than myself who know how to spell).

Itís not always easy to enjoy my couch knowing that some of the stuff in my couch that makes it comfortable and safe may actually be harmful to me. There is growing evidence that halogenated flame retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers often found in foam cushioning are harmful to humans and animals.

Take Action for Future Furniture Purchases
Ask the distributor or manufacturer what chemicals the furniture contains. Donít limit this to couches. It applies to mattresses, carpet padding and anything with polyurethane foam. If the distributor or manufacturer canít or wonít provide this information, donít buy from them.

Shop around for ďsaferĒ furniture. PBDEs have been banned from furniture made in North America and Europe since 2004 so places which sell furniture from these areas should be free of most PDBEs (decaBDE, one of the PDBEs, is just beginning to be banned).

Favor solid wood products. Pressed wood and particleboard products can contain adhesives like formaldehyde (a known human carcinogen).

Favor products that use natural flame retardants like all-wool linings. If these are not available try products that use less toxic chemicals for flame retardants like phosphates.

Look for upholstered furniture with the foam cushion thickly covered or wrapped inside the upholstery. This will minimize the amount of dust that can escape from the foam.

Favor products with polyester, down, wool or cotton fill.

Take Action with Existing Furniture
Ask the furniture distributor or manufacturer about existing furniture you are concerned about. They may have answers to your questions.

Clean frequently. Over time, PBDEs are released from the products containing them which then tend to accumulate in dust in the surrounding environment.

Use a vacuum with a ďHEPAĒ filter for carpets or a wet mop for hardwood and solid floors.
Increase ventilation as much as possible. Open doors and windows weather permitting.

Read more: Blogs, Safe Sweet Home, ,

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Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson is a Certified Industrial Hygienist with over 10 years of experience working in the environmental and occupational health field. In addition to writing, he is currently the Environment, Health and Safety Manager for a medium-sized company that has been voted one of Fortune Magazineís Best Places to Work For and one of CRO Magazineís 100 Best Corporate Citizens. He lives in California with his wife and adopted pound puppy.


+ add your own
4:40AM PST on Feb 4, 2013

Thank you for the share!

1:08PM PST on Dec 2, 2012


5:14AM PDT on May 23, 2011

Thanks for the article.

1:55AM PDT on May 20, 2011


7:54AM PDT on Apr 28, 2011


10:24PM PDT on Mar 25, 2010

Amanda, I agree! It's like everywhere you turn something else is discovered to be a carcinogen!

Thanks for the info.

1:23PM PDT on Mar 21, 2010

thanks for the article!

9:16PM PDT on Mar 19, 2010

I feel so overwhelmed seems like *everything* nowadays is being made in ways that are harmful to your health. food, furniture, clothing....chemicals and plastics everywhere. is there anything you don't have to be careful about now?

3:01PM PST on Mar 13, 2010

So glad my Eureka vacuum takes HEPA bags. Thanks for the info.

7:45AM PST on Mar 1, 2010

I have had my furniture which belonged to my great grand mother, grandmother and mother. My siblings didn't want them as they seemed too old fashioned. The are all handcarved antiques, from China, Great Britain and the early 1800's from Hawaii. I have not had any trouble with the furnishings.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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