California Takes on Chemical Industry and Toxic Furniture

Woman sitting on sofa

Believe it or not, that chair or sofa you’re sitting on may contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer and fertility issues. Most furniture throughout the country is made with these flame retardant chemicals, which have actually been found to provide no significant protection against the start or spread of fire.

And who does the country have to blame for this? Our very own California. Although to be fair the state government was manipulated by the chemical and tobacco industries in the 1970s to require a stringent fire safety standard that was easiest to satisfy with flame retardant chemicals. But we are striking back and correcting our mistakes by easing that regulation, as well as implementing a new requirement that furniture manufacturers include a label on new furniture that describes whether or not it contains toxic flame retardants.

As of January 2014, California relaxed its furniture fire safety regulation, instead implementing a requirement that the outer fabric on furniture must be naturally resistant to smoldering, as from a cigarette (again, the leading cause of furniture fires).

The second legal change is that as of January 2015, California requires all upholstered furniture sold here to contain a label describing whether the furniture contains toxic flame retardant chemicals.

Neither of these regulations require furniture makers to remove fire retardants, but they essentially push manufacturers in that direction, in conjunction with consumer pressure.

So when shopping for your next sofa, be sure to check the label, and if it says it contains fire retardant chemicals, just say “thanks but no thanks!”

For more details on this story, including how we came to have toxic chemicals in our furniture, and how California set the standard for furniture in the entire country, see our article at the main Law Soup site.

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