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Is Your Sofa Safe?

Brominated flame retardants, linked to multiple health impacts, are found in the breast milk of virtually every U.S. woman tested, at much higher levels than in Europe, largely because of failed policy. If you’re buying a new sofa anytime soon, pay attention to the article below. If you don’t have time to read, one word: IKEA.

family on couch

FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2015

Do you know that your couch may be toxic to you and your kids? A weak federal chemical safety law and poorly designed state fire safety standards fail to protect Americans from thousands of dangerous chemicals like fire retardants.

Ten years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and health advocates forced fire retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, from the market. These chemicals were showing up in people’s bodies, and research suggested that they disrupted hormone signaling and children’s developing brains and nervous systems. In 2008, EWG testing found that toddlers’blood contained nearly three times the levels of PBDEs of their parents’ bodies.

While most PBDEs are no longer used in couches, the broken federal chemical law allows other potentially problematic chemicals to be substituted. Last year, EWG teamed up with Duke University scientists to look at concentrations of these alternative fire retardants in more than 20 mothers and children. The urine of every mother and child tested yielded evidence of exposure to TDCIPP, a cancer-causing fire retardant. In fact, when the participants’ bodies were tested for a chemical biomarker left when TDCIPP breaks down, the study found that the children’s bodies contained five times the amount of the chemical in their mothers. In the most extreme case, a child had 23 times the level measured in the mother.

Here’s the bad news: The Toxic Substances Control Act is a badly broken federal law that allowed this to happen.

Now for the good news: Thanks to a key policy change in California fire safety standards, mainstream furniture manufacturers like Pottery Barn and Ikea now produce sofas and sectionals without flame retardant chemicals. Suddenly consumers can choose from a multitude of fire retardant-free furniture options.

Even more good news: As of January 1 of this year, furniture manufacturers must label products they want to sell in the state of California, clearly indicating whether each piece contains flame retardants. These revolutionary changes will take the guesswork – and the chemicals – out of sofa shopping.

Make sure your new couch doesn’t contain fire retardants

While the manufacturers listed below have eliminated chemical flame retardants from products manufactured after January 1, 2015, they may still sell their 2014 stock (with the exception of Room & Board). It’s important to visit the store or call customer service to confirm that the couch you purchase has the new label and was manufactured in 2015. The new label should read: “The upholstery materials in this product contain NO added flame retardant chemicals.”

For safe sofas, read the full article by EWG: http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2015/03/five-couches-without-flame-retardants-you-can-buy-right-now

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