Do you remember the first time you purchased new furniture for your home? The first major purchases for my husband and I came several years into our marriage. We had gotten by with mostly hand-me-downs, saved up, then finally took the leap. We were so proud of the new coffee table and well-coordinated sofa and love seat. Of course, we were also proud of being budget-conscious, so we didn't buy the most expensive couch on the market. It was pretty, and it came with a label assuring us that it met some special safety requirement for California, so it must have been good. Shortly before our first child was born, we had a picture perfect living room.
The latest scientific study of the material in most modern couches is unsettling, to say the least. Scientists confirm that toxic flame retardant chemicals are common in our couches; and if the substances aren't known toxins, they at least have an unproven safety record. These are the substances embedded in our cushions that were supposed to be protecting us from fire hazards. Turns out, top scientists have already testified before Congress that fire retardant chemicals don't do much to protect us from fire. Instead, they increase the chances of exposure for our children to substances that may cause cancer, hormone disruption and harm to developing brains. One of the flame retardants in furniture was previously taken out of children's pajamas under pressure about health concerns.
We can do our best to minimize dust at our house (because scientists say these toxins can migrate out of our furniture into household dust). I certainly need to tape up my dilapidated polyurethane foam office chair that also has that special California requirement mention on its tag. But our budget does not include new furniture this year, certainly not for all new living room seating. According to this latest study, most of our new furniture choices would include as much or more flame retardants than what we may already have in our house.
Young couples, single folks on a budget, families with lots of children...we all should be able to find affordable furniture made without toxic or questionable substances. That's why I support the Safe Chemicals Act and urge you to find out more about it. The measure would require substances to be proven safe before they're used in our household products, in our couches, around our children.
Still not convinced enough to care? Check out this scathing series by the Chicago Tribune on how and why we have "flame retardant" chemicals in our couches in the first place. You will be shocked.