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Healthy Homes

Toxic Exposure

Toxic Chemicals in Our Couches  
Study Tests Over 100 Couches Across U.S.

A new peer-reviewed study released today tested over 100 couch samples from across the U.S. and found that 85% contained toxic or untested flame retardant chemicals. This includes 41% of the couches testing positive for the cancer-causing chlorinated Tris, which was banned from children’s pajamas decades ago.

The study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, emphasizes the failures of inadequate federal laws on toxic chemicals. Weak federal laws have allowed toxic chemicals like flame retardants on to the market with limited health and safety information required. The study also shows an increase in the use of flame retardants in couches, despite no data demonstrating fire safety benefits from the use of such chemicals.

Women for a Healthy Environment submitted samples for this study. "We were pleased that our tests came back negative, meaning no flame retardants were detected in our samples. However, many others were not as fortunate," said WHE's executive director Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis. "This study is yet another example of how our current regulations are failing to protect public health. We need chemical reform at the federal level to safeguard our families."

Flame retardant chemicals, like those found in the couches, are associated with cancer, serious adverse neurological, reproductive, and hormonal health effects. These chemicals continuously migrate from products to house dust, children and pets. Recent studies show that toddlers have three times the level of contamination as their mothers, and show that children of color have levels higher than the general population.

Dust is the primary route of exposure for these chemicals. Dusting frequently with a microfiber cloth (no need to use dusting sprays!), a wet mop and frequently vacuuming with a HEPA filter will go a long way to reduce your exposure. Studies have shown that frequently washing your hands with soap and water will also decrease exposure.


For a link to the study, click here.

For WHE's press release, click here.