Flame Retardants & Beyond
Furniture is an unexpected reservoir of many hazardous chemicals that can pose health threats to children, families, workers, consumers and communities. CEH has moved the furniture industry away from the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals. Now we are working to eliminate a “Hazardous Handful” of chemicals from furniture; in addition to flame retardants, these include formaldehyde, fluorinated chemicals, antimicrobials and polyvinyl chloride (vinyl).
Toxic and synthetic chemicals escape from furniture and make their way into the air, dust, and our bodies. Household dust laced with chemicals enters our bodies through inadvertent ingestion of contaminated dust when we touch our hands to our mouths, from the air we breathe, through our skin or from ingesting contaminated food. Many of these chemicals also seep into our land, water and the surrounding communities when furniture is discarded into landfills. Many of these chemicals have been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, reduced fertility, hormonal problems, and developmental issues in children, including reduced IQ and behavioral problems. Given the longevity of furniture products in our homes, schools and workplaces and the fact that we spend 90% of our time indoors, we are continually being exposed to toxic chemicals.
By making a few simple and cost-neutral choices when purchasing furniture, you can seize a valuable opportunity to improve indoor air quality, protect your health, and broaden the market for safer products. Many of these chemicals aren’t necessary and often do not work as advertised, so why buy products that could be negatively impacting your health? Fortunately, there are many healthier alternatives free of toxic flame retardants and other chemicals, just be sure to check the labels for warnings and request furniture without the “hazardous handful’ chemicals.
CEH has worked to gather resources and information to help consumers, businesses and childcare providers avoid these chemicals of concern. Learn about how to make safe purchasing choices, what products to avoid, and what companies are already taking steps to ban these harmful chemicals in their products and from their workplaces.
If you want to have your furniture tested for flame retardants, Duke University offers a free foam testing program. Read more about how to get your furniture checked for toxic chemicals here.