The Last of the Killer Couches

I have hated my couch ever since I found out that it contained a cancer-causing flame retardant chemical.  I have longed to get rid of it, but I felt stuck because virtually all furniture also has toxic and/or untested flame retardant chemicals.

But now I see light at the end of the tunnel (and I also see a beautiful, new, flame retardant-free couch coming into my future)!  That’s because today Governor Brown announced the approval of California’s long awaited new furniture flammability standard (TB 117-2013).  This new rule replaces a decades-old standard that led to the use of millions of pounds of toxic and unnecessary flame retardant chemicals, toxins that contaminate our homes, our bodies, our pets and the environment.

TB 117-2013 will improve fire safety and allow companies to make safer products without the use of flame retardant chemicals. The new standard addresses where fires actually begin, so furniture makers can meet the standard using fabrics or barriers in place of harmful chemicals. The new standard also exempts baby products, since they pose no fire safety danger.  This is important since babies’ rapidly developing brains and bodies make them extremely vulnerable to toxic chemicals.

The new standard comes into effect on January 1, but companies are not required to meet the standard for another year. That means we have to push companies to offer safer products sooner. This week, we are urging Toys R Us to demand safer products sooner – join the call by telling Toys R Us CEO Antonio Urcelay to stock flame retardant-free products this January.

In the meantime, parents and consumers can take steps to avoid harmful flame retardants:

  1. Avoid products that have the old “TB 117” label and beware of deeply discounted furniture.
  2. Prefer products that have a “TB 117-2013 label.” If the furniture label says TB 117-2013, it is more likely that the product does not contain flame retardants, but it NOT a guarantee. Check with retailers or producers to be sure.
  3. Get a prescription:  The new standard allows consumers to obtain a written prescription for furniture that does not have to meet the flammability standard.  This is great for people with chemical sensitivities and is similar to an exemption that is available for mattresses.
  4. Keep checking CEH’s website where we will regularly update information about the implementation of the new standard and manufacturers who have removed the flame retardant chemicals.

Here is to a safe and healthy 2014!