Safer Sofa Foam Exchange Announced for Bay Area

/ / Green Building Consulting

You may have heard about the problem with flame retardants in polyurethane furniture foams. If you haven’t, and you want a safer sofa, I highly recommend reading the Chicago Tribune’s exposé on the flame retardant industry: Playing With Fire.

The California flammability standard, known as TB117, in effect required manufacturers to use toxic flame retardant chemicals in polyurethane furniture foams. For almost 40 years, consumers have been exposed to these endocrine disrupting chemicals, as studies have shown that they escape furniture foam and end up in household dust. Adults, children, and domestic animals ingest these chemicals through hand-to-mouth (or paw-to-mouth) contact. And what’s worse, the flame retardants do not slow fires under real world conditions.

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Go ahead, flip over your couch cushions, or look under your computer chair. If you have any furniture or baby products with a tag labeled “TB117,” they contain flame retardants.

Thanks to the efforts of Arlene Blum and the Green Science Policy Institute, as well as to media coverage by the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times, among others, the California legislature last year moved to revise their flammability standards. With TB117-2013, flame retardant chemicals are no longer necessary to meet flammability standards. Unfortunately, you still have to ask your manufacturer for flame retardant-free foam.

When people find out they have endocrine disrupting chemicals in their couch, the first question is, where can I buy a new couch without flame retardants? Unfortunately for many of us, couches made with organic materials (that did not require flame retardant treatment) are significantly more expensive than foam alternatives. But even now that foam couches are available without flame retardants, they are still a huge investment. We can’t all afford to buy a new couch this year.

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Keep the couch you and your dog love!

The exciting news is that you have the option to keep the couch you love AND have a safer sofa. Simply swap out your old, flame retardant-treated cushions for new, untreated cushions. (According to furniture manufacturers, untreated foam is much more comfortable than treated foam, so it’s a double win). There are a few other advantages to the program:

  • Your couch foam won’t just end up in a landfill where toxic chemicals will leach into the environment.
  • You won’t have to sell or donate your old couch, knowing that the next owner will be exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Safer Sofa Foam Exchange partners will make sure your old foam is disposed of responsibly.

Want to sign up for the program? Go to the Safer Sofa Foam Exchange and fill out their inquiry form. Currently, only Bay Area residents have the option to swap out their foam through this program. But if you are outside the Bay Area, tell your favorite upholstery shop to participate in the program!