Major Companies Demanding Safer Office Furniture, Without Harmful Chemicals

Oakland, CA- The national health watchdog the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) today announced a pledge signed by major companies, higher education institutions and government purchasers, including Kaiser Permanente, the City and County of San Francisco, LinkedIn Corporation, University of California,Santa Cruz and nine others who have signed the CEH Purchaser’s Pledge to preferentially purchase furniture made without toxic chemicals. This movement by leading organizations continues the national trend towards safer products made without harmful chemicals.  These companies represent more than $92 million in purchasing power for furniture.

“With major companies pledging to avoid products that contain toxic chemicals, we expect that furniture makers will move quickly to meet the increasing demand for safer products,” said Judy Levin of CEH. “The mood of the market is clear: purchasers from a wide cross section of stakeholder groups agree that it’s time for furniture companies to end their use of harmful chemicals.”

Companies and others signing the CEH Pledge are informing their furniture suppliers that they prefer to buy furniture made without toxic chemicals. The Pledge reads

As a business leader I am concerned about the health of our world – my employees, customers, communities, and the global environment. I am committed to reducing the use of chemicals that pose harm to human health and the environment. As a first step, I commit to ask my suppliers about the presence of chemicals of concern like flame retardants, fluorinated stain treatments, antimicrobials, vinyl and VOC’s including formaldehyde, that may be present in the products that we produce/specify/purchase.

“This pledge aligns with the work Kaiser Permanente is doing to improve the health of our employees, members and communities by eliminating chemicals of concern from the products and furnishings we purchase,” said Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser Permanente’s vice president for employee safety, health & wellness and environmental stewardship officer. “By joining with CEH and other organizations that share our passion for creating healthier outcomes, we’re able to combine our influence to achieve widespread, positive change.”

”San Francisco believes strongly in taking proactive measures to prevent harm,” said Deborah Raphael, Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, “ and furniture provides a perfect opportunity to do so. We already know that some of the chemicals used in furniture can cause harm, and we also know that there are safer alternatives available. By joining CEH and our agency partners in this pledge, we can protect our citizenry at home and move markets globally.”

“LinkedIn is committed to protecting the planet while we carry out our company’s mission to ‘provide economic opportunity to the global workforce,’” said Peggy Brannigan, Global Program Manager, Sustainability at LinkedIn. “We know that a big part of our environmental impact stems from the products and services we purchase from our vendors.  Our work with CEH and our signing of this Pledge help us communicate a clear preference for green and healthy options.”

The chemicals of concern include flame retardants and fluorinated chemicals which are known as Persistent, Bio-accumulative Toxins (PBTs), that persist in the environment for a long time, concentrate as they move up the food chain, and harm people’s health. These substances can leach out of furniture and contaminate workplaces and homes, leading to increased risks of serious diseases. Studies have shown that flame retardants do not contribute to added fire safety in furniture, but the chemicals pose serious health risks, including cancer, infertility, developmental delays and other concerns.  Some fluorinated chemicals, used as water and stain repellants in furniture, have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disruption, delayed puberty, elevated cholesterol, and obesity. Similarly, doctors and scientists have found that antimicrobials in furniture do not prevent the spread of infections, while exposure to these chemicals has been linked to reproductive health problems, threats to thyroid health, and hormonal changes. Health professionals are also concerned that the increased use of antimicrobials may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant “superbugs” that could pose a large public health issue.  Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) has a harmful life cycle with toxic exposures that result from its production, use and disposal.

Click here to see the CEH Purchaser’s Pledge with the full list of signers (as of 6/2017).

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is a national nonprofit committed to ending health threats from toxic chemicals in our air, water, food and in products we use every day. We protect children and families from harmful chemicals by working with communities, consumers, workers, and government to demand and support safer business practices. We also work with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices.