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“Flame Retardant-Free” Becoming the New Normal for Furniture

Leading furniture companies offering safer furniture made without toxic flame retardant chemicals

Oakland, CA-More than 50 furniture companies representing billions of dollars in annual sales are now selling products made without toxic flame retardant chemicals, according to buying guides released today by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). Market leaders now offering safer furniture include Ashley, Ikea, La-Z-Boy and many others. Numerous studies have linked flame retardants to cancer, infertility, learning and developmental problems and other serious health issues.

CEH partnered with HDR Inc, the nation’s second largest architectural and design firm, in surveying office furniture companies, and with the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) in surveying companies that make residential furniture. “Our guides show that safer products are now available for American families and businesses,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “We applaud the companies who are taking swift action to eliminate toxic flame retardants from their products, and we expect that the entire industry will soon be flame retardant-free.”

The CEH guides show that 20 office furniture companies and 37 residential furniture companies representing almost 60 brands are offering furniture made without flame retardants. Companies are able to provide safer products as a result of recent changes to California flammability laws, which for the first time in decades now gives companies easier ways to meet safety standards without the use of harmful flame retardants. For furniture made after 12/31/14, California also now requires labels to inform buyers when products contain toxic flame retardants, thanks to successful legislation (SB 1019) co-sponsored by CEH. According to the CEH surveys, approximately 75% of companies are labeling the furniture they sell nationwide.

CEH has also produced a guide to buying office furniture without flame retardants, to encourage and assist businesses in identifying and procuring safer furniture.  CEH is helping corporations, government, higher education and healthcare systems to prefer and purchase flame retardant free furniture.

“At HDR, we are committed to reducing our environmental impacts both through responsible practices for our clients and the communities they serve, as well as for ourselves as employee owners,” said Jean Hanson, a Senior Professional Associate/Sustainable Interiors Manager at HDR. “We are excited about the growth in the availability of flame retardant free-furniture and we expect flame retardant free-furniture will soon be the new norm throughout the industry.  At long last purchasers finally have a choice for healthier and safer flame retardant-free furniture.”

“Leading furniture manufacturers adopting California’s product labeling bill for flame retardants is a very positive step because it means increased availability of products across the United States that do not contain toxic flame retardants,” said International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold Schaitberger. “That is a victory for the health and safety of consumers and fire fighters who no longer risk exposure to these harmful chemicals.”

“By providing consumers with full disclosure about the products they buy, California is once again a trendsetter,” said Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters. “We are gratified, but not surprised, that the common sense protections offered by SB 1019 are becoming a standard for the nation.”

While consumers and office furniture buyers can now find safer products, CEH warns that some furniture made with flame retardants may still be sold.  Although the vast majority of companies that responded to the CEH survey are providing flame retardant-free products, the use of flame retardant chemicals is not prohibited under the new regulations and not all manufacturers have transitioned to flame retardant-free products. Consumers need to be aware that manufacturers are allowed to sell off all of their old inventory indefinitely so stores may have older products produced before the new standards and new labeling rules took effect. Consumers should check for labels and contact the manufacturers or ask sales staff questions about the use of flame retardant chemicals when furniture is not labeled.

“Toxic and unnecessary flame retardants in furniture is a problem that can be solved, and is being solved,” said Green. “With each couch containing anywhere from 1-2 lbs. of flame retardant chemicals, this transition is protecting human and environmental health from exposure to millions of pounds of harmful flame retardant chemicals while still maintaining fire safety.”

See the CEH website for the  guides and for more information.