Donnie Ray Jones / Flickr

Flame retardants are potentially harmful to human health. Here’s where to find couches that don’t contain them.

Recently I wrote about the high rates of cancer among firefighters, which many researchers believe are driven by their exposure to flame retardants and other chemicals in burning furniture.

But it’s not just firefighters’ health that might be threatened by flame retardants, which still lace most furniture and electronics. Even in the absence of a fire, our sofas and TVs are constantly sloughing off these chemicals, which some studies link to thyroid and other endocrine problems.

Some types of flame retardants, called PBDEs, have been phased out, but their replacements might also be harmful. A substance called tris was widely applied to children’s pajamas during the late 1970s before being discontinued because of concerns over potential carcinogenicity. But after the phaseout of PBDEs in 2005, chlorinated tris became the primary flame retardant in polyurethane foam, according to a study by Duke University researchers.

There is evidence that people have traces of flame retardants in their bodies. Toddlers tend to have higher levels because they crawl on couch cushions and put their hands in their mouths.

We won’t know the full health impacts of these chemicals until studies prove a causal link. In the meantime, if you want to stay as flame-retardant free as possible, the Environmental Working Group and NRDC have compiled lists of furniture stores that have started phasing out flame retardants this year:

  1. The Futon Shop
  2. Crate & Barrel
  3. La-Z-Boy
  4. Williams Sonoma/West Elm/Pottery Barn
  5. IKEA
  6. Room and Board
  7. Design Within Reach
  8. Interline
  9. Ashley Furniture

Look for this label either under the cushions or the frame:

NRDC

Spotting flame-retardant-filled couches might become easier thanks to a California law passed last year. The state now requires furniture that contains flame retardants to be labeled, and because it’s such a large market, furniture makers may adopt the practice for other states.

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A brownstone in Brooklyn, where Airbnb growth has been particularly strong in recent years.
    Life

    What Airbnb Did to New York City

    Airbnb’s effects on the city’s housing market have been dramatic, a report suggests. And other cities could soon see the same pattern.

  2. A photo of a Family Mart convenience store in Japan.
    Life

    The Language Debate Inside Japan's Convenience Stores

    Throughout Japan, store clerks and other service industry workers are trained to use the elaborate honorific speech called “manual keigo.” But change is coming.

  3. Design

    Will Copenhagen’s Eco-Friendly Man-Made Islands Pay Off?

    The Danish capital is expanding its land mass and creating climate resiliency. But is it sustainable?

  4. Two men plant a young tree in a lot in Detroit.
    Environment

    Why Detroit Residents Pushed Back Against Tree-Planting

    Detroiters were refusing city-sponsored “free trees.” A researcher found out the problem: She was the first person to ask them if they wanted them.

  5. A young refugee from Kosovo stands in front of a map of Hungary with her teacher.
    Maps

    Who Maps the World?

    Too often, men. And money. But a team of OpenStreetMap users is working to draw new cartographic lines, making maps that more accurately—and equitably—reflect our space.