9 June 2017
Consumer Watchdog Group Leads Effort Against Furniture Containing Toxic Chemicals
California-based consumer watchdog group Center for Environmental Health recently announced a pledge by several major companies, higher education institutions and government purchasers to preferentially purchase furniture made without toxic chemicals. These companies and organisations ostensibly represent more than US$92 million in purchasing power for furniture and their commitment showcases the growing pressure on furniture manufacturers to ensure their products do not contain harmful substances.
Entities signing the pledge are informing their furniture suppliers that they prefer to buy furniture made without toxic chemicals. Specific concern is expressed about the use of persistent, bio-accumulative flame retardants, fluorinated stain/water resistant treatments, antimicrobial treatments, vinyl, and volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde because they persist in the environment for a long time, concentrate as they move up the food chain and harm people’s health. CEH contends that these substances can leach out of furniture and contaminate workplaces and homes, leading to increased risks of serious diseases.
The watchdog group adds that studies have shown that flame retardants do not contribute to added fire safety in furniture; instead, those chemicals pose serious health risks such as cancer, infertility and developmental delays. Some fluorinated chemicals used as water and stain repellents in furniture have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disruption, delayed puberty, elevated cholesterol and obesity. Similarly, CEH contends, doctors and scientists have found that antimicrobials in furniture do not prevent the spread of infections while exposure to these chemicals has been linked to reproductive health problems, threats to thyroid health and hormonal changes. There is also growing concern that the increased use of antimicrobials may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant superbugs that could pose a larger public health challenge.