California is currently debating a new standard that would reduce the use of flame retardants in furniture.
Consumers hoping to avoid flame retardant-laced furniture are often left in the dark. Furniture manufacturers are often unable to say if their products contain flame retardants because foam padding comes from a vendor, who in turn buys chemicals used to treat it from yet another vendor. Precise information is often protected under law as proprietary.
A couch with a California TB 117 label indicates the presence of flame retardants, but a couch without such a label doesn't mean there are no flame retardants, the scientists found. Of couches without a label, 57 percent contained them.
"Consumers should be aware of what types of chemicals are replacing PBDEs so they can make informed choices when purchasing couches and other furniture," Patisaul said. "The free market system is a fundamental economic and philosophical pillar of our society that is usurped when consumers cannot effectively evaluate the chemical composition of what they are purchasing."
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.