Want to Avoid Toxic Couch Chemicals? Just Look for New Label!

Last week, there was good news for families looking for safer furniture across the U.S.—Ashley Furniture, the largest manufacturer and seller of furniture in the country, announced that they are removing toxic flame retardant chemicals from their furniture! Read more about it on Mind the Store's blog. Even better, Ashley announced that ALL of their new furniture, no matter where in the country, will comply with California's new labeling law, so shoppers can easily tell which couches contain toxic flame retardant chemicals and which ones don't.

Signed by Governor Brown last year, the CA labeling law requires all upholstered furniture (like couches, sofas, loveseats, and recliners) manufactured after January 1, 2015 to have a label that states whether or not harmful flame retardant chemicals were added to the product.

Simple, right? Well, the new label is easy to understand, but unfortunately the situation is more complicated when you go into a furniture store. Some stores are ahead of the game and are already offering products without these unnecessary and harmful chemicals. (These stores are listed in our furniture store survey and also covered in a recent article from the Chicago Tribune.) But not all the couches in stores will have the simple flame retardant label yet. That's because the labeling law only applies to new furniture that's manufactured this year. Couches made in 2014 or earlier have different labels and may or may not contain flame retardants.

So, what do you need to look for before you buy?

First, find the flammability/ law label attached to the furniture. It's usually located underneath the furniture or under the cushions.

Here are the three different kinds of labels you could see and what they mean:

#1

Best: Flammability requirements label followed by the flame retardant label. Look for flame retardant labels marked "contain NO added flame retardant chemicals." You may be able to special order these products if they are not in stores yet.

#2

Ask questions: Flammability requirements label with "Technical Bulletin 117-2013" or "TB117-2013." These products may or may not contain flame retardant chemicals. Ask the store or check with the manufacturer.

#3

Worst: Flammability requirements label with "Technical Bulletin 117" or "TB117." These products almost certainly contain flame retardants.

As brand new products hit stores later this year, you'll be able to see more and more with the simple flame retardant labels.

Happy furniture shopping!

About the Authors

Veena Singla

Staff Scientist, Health & Environment program

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