Update on Flame Retardants in Furniture

A lot has changed since I bought my flame retardant free couch two years ago. (Policy-wise, that is. My couch is still awesome.) America has made unprecedented improvements in embracing science over the garbage spewed by the $-motivated chemical industry, both via policy and changes made by manufacturers. I think it is safe to say that chemical flame retardants in upholstered furniture are on their way out. 

First, California recently passed a law that requires furniture makers to indicate on the label whether chemical flame retardants are added as of Jan 1, 2015. You might remember that California started the whole chemical flame retardants in furniture trend with the TB 117 regulation, and that it became a national de facto standard because manufacturers didn’t want to make a separate product for California. Hopefully, this labeling requirement, which will make your couch shopping so much easier, will also effectively become a national standard. TB 117 was also modified in 2013 (label will read TB 117-2013) to allow foam furniture to pass the flammability standard without added chemicals; the presence of this label on furniture does not guarantee the absence of chemical flame retardants, but the new yes/no label will. 

Additionally, many big name furniture manufacturers have announced that they are phasing out chemical flame retardants in some or all of their products:

  • Room and Board : All sofas free of chemical flame retardants as of July, 2014 
  • Ikea : No chemical flame retardants used in manufacturing as of Jan. 1, 2015. 2014 stock will still contain FRs.
  • Crate and Barrel : As of Jan. 1, 2015  
  • West Elm : As of Jan. 1, 2015 
  • Pottery Bard : As of Jan. 1, 2015 
  • Design Within Reach : select models
  • Lay-Z-Boy 
  • The Futon Shop 
  • Dania 
  • Scandinavian designs 
  • Wal-Mart
  • Ashley Furniture 
  • Ethan Allen 
  • Restoration Hardware
  • Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams 

Sources for this store list: here and here. There may be more companies; if you come across any, let me know!

Lastly, here you can find a list of companies selling flame retardant free office furniture.

When shopping for a new sofa or other upholstered furniture, don’t forget to check the labels and call the company to make sure no chemical flame retardants are present. 

You can read more about chemical flame retardants and how to avoid ingesting them if you aren’t shopping for new furniture at the National Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group

 

Long Reads for the Weekend

Happy Pi day, friends. I’m probably not going to bake a pie this weekend, but I can still remember 31 digits from back in the day when I thought memorizing pi was cool.

Here are two articles worth a little piece of your weekend:

Also on my radar: Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA 

And lastly, a follow up on last month’s arsenic post: An Unlikely Driver of Evolution: Arsenic In a new study in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, researchers report that over the years the Atacameños of Argentina became more resistant to arsenic, thanks to natural selection. It is the first documented case of natural selection in humans for a defense against an environmental poison.

Environmental Book Review: Toms River by Dan Fagin

I’m usually skeptical of pop science journalism, but I decided to give Dan Fagin’s Toms River a go after coming across a grumpy amazon review complaining that it was too scientific.

Toms River is about chemical pollution and its consequences in the coastal New Jersey community of the same name, focusing on a childhood cancer cluster that made big headlines around 2000.  However, this isn’t just the story of evil chemicals that hurt innocent people; Fagin’s narrative, punctuated with historical background on chemical manufacturing, toxicology, epidemiology, and molecular genetics, is organized like a mystery novel but with an unsatisfying, anticlimactic ending.  It’s a true story after all, and the intricacies, flaws, and knowledge gaps in law and science make it almost impossible bring the responsible parties to justice.

Continue reading

Intro: How Chapstick turned us green

Taylor and I are green scientists, and we’re starting a new experiment.  But this isn’t a typical project because we intend for it never to end…

As chemistry PhD students we have recently learned just how awful some of the synthetic chemicals that we voluntarily expose ourselves to everyday are.  We’ve made a pact to cut toxins our of our lives, and we’re starting here and now. Curiously, it was my beloved chapstick (ingredients: bioaccumulative reproductive toxins and not much else) that convinced us to really do this.

The purpose of our experiment is to live healthier, greener lives that impact the environment as little as possible. We’re going to be patient, we’re going to be thrify, and we’re going to be green.  My advisor Terry always lectures that sustainability is a vector. It’s about commitment and direction, not the place you are in right now. It will take some time, but we are determined to get there. In the mean time, we invite you to follow our scientific but lighthearted approach to sharing our story.

So here we go: We decided the first things that needed to go were the products that touched our bodies every day.  Lip balm, shampoo, conditioner, body soap, deodorant, toothpaste, hand soap, dish soap, laundry detergent, lotion, etc. After some extensive internet research and too much time spent in Whole Foods googling ingredients, we’ve started our detox.

To get an idea about what we are doing, give this video called the “The Story of Stuff” a shot. Maybe it will encourage you to leave a greener wake too!