What do Facebook, Kaiser Permanente, Staples and the San Francisco Department of Environment have in common? All four appear on a list of corporate and government entities that pledged to stop purchasing furniture treated with flame-retardant chemicals. The Center for Environmental Health (CEH), the organization behind the pledge, hopes to steer business away from furniture containing flame retardants, which have been linked to a range of health risks. All the offices on the list spend a combined $520 million on furniture every year.
The pledge coincides with new state legislation that will require manufacturers to attach labels to furniture treated with flame retardants. In September Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1019, which takes effect January 1, 2015.
Treating furniture with flame-retardant chemicals used to be standard procedure for meeting California’s furniture flammability code, known as Technical Bulletin 117.
“For a long time government regulations were promoting the use of these chemicals,” Charles Margulis of CEH tells Capital &
For years firefighters and environmentalists have warned of the dangers from upholstered furniture treated with flame-retardant chemicals that are linked to cancer, decreased fertility, hormone disruption and lower IQ development. Although state safety regulations allow the use of flame retardants, they are not required — the choice is left to manufacturers. Today Californians wishing to buy a sofa or easy chair free of toxic chemicals are in for a surprise when they try to get information in stores about the presence or absence of flame retardants. An informal survey of West Los Angeles furniture showrooms recently encountered these scenes: