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New furniture - harmful to health?

(12 Posts)
WooWoo1000 Tue 26-Jan-16 19:49:02


Just wondering if anyone has any experience of this. I've recently purchased two new sofas from a well know furniture shop and it absolutely reeks of chemicals. Since we got the sofas last week we haven't even been able to sit on them because the smell is so unpleasant. This is despite airing the room with the window and French doors open for 2 days. The room is currently shut up and I'm awaiting a response to my complaint from the retailer. I'm pretty worried as I'm pregnant and concerned about what the exposure might be doing to the baby. This isn't just a 'new' smell it's really overpowering.

jennymor123 Mon 20-Jun-16 16:38:41

I have worked for many years in furniture testing and can assure you that you aren't imagining chemical smells from your new sofas. Because the UK's flammability laws are so strict, companies tend to use a lot of flame retardants in their products. However, there is now a ton of evidence that shows these chemicals affect health and the environment. They get into house dust then mother's breast milk. Children and pets are particularly vulnerable. Two years ago the US changed its flammability standard after a long campaign by green scientists, fire-fighters (who noticed they were getting more cancers than normal) and others. However, the chemical industry is very powerful in the UK and is currently helping to block proposed changes to our laws that would greatly reduce FR use.

In the meantime, if you want to avoid the worst FRs, buy IKEA or leather.

WooWoo1000 Sun 11-Sep-16 00:42:39

Jennymor123, thanks for you're reply - I've been busy with a newborn and didn't realise you had written. Your insight is very concerning - breastfeeding as we speak!

After a huge amount of faff we managed to return the sofas, but lost some of our money, however by that point the smell had got into all of the other fabrics in the room so we had to clean the carpet and wash the curtains.

The sofas were in fact leather, but it certainly wasn't the classic (pleasant) leather smell you'd expect. Since the dodgy sofas have gone we have bought second hand sofas (on the basis that they would have already done thier 'off gassing') and covered them with throws, however it looks a bit messy so I would like to get new eventually. I did think about ikea since you can wash the covers.

Bookaboo Sun 11-Sep-16 22:56:11

Do you have any plants? All sorts of house plants are good at absorbing household toxins if that sort of thing concerns you.
Peace lilies, ivy, palms, spider plants... all sorts of readily available pot plants.

Google house plants to purify the air.

WooWoo1000 Mon 12-Sep-16 14:55:47

Yes we tried filling the room with plants but they were no competition! The sofas are long gone now and the room is back to normal but I am very sceptical now of anything that comes into the house. I actually watched an interesting news segment recently about how the air quality in our homes is actually worse than outside (pollution etc) because we make our homes so air tight these days (double glazing, insulation, not opening windows due to security concerns) that all the toxins build up and never escape.

jennymor123 Sun 02-Oct-16 11:23:51

The flame retardant industry is very powerful and good at influencing companies to include use its products even when there's no need to. For example, many curtains and blinds contain FRs these days yet there are no flammability requirements for those items. What's worse is that these FRs often don't do what they're supposed to anyway! The government's own research published in 2014 proved that the main flammability test for sofa fabrics doesn't work in most cases. Which means we're all getting poisoned for no reason. Also, when FRs in sofas catch fire, within a very short space of time they give off huge amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide!

WooWoo1000 Tue 04-Oct-16 23:47:58

Argh!!! I wish someone would make a documentary exposing all of this!

jennymor123 Wed 05-Oct-16 09:45:39

Someone has. It's called 'Toxic Hot Seat', an HBO movie. One of the film makers was Robert Redford's son. It's won various awards and I'm told that you can find it on the internet (apparently there are sites . . . ) or buy it. It follows the story of a group of allies who took on the mighty flame retardant industry in the USA. One of the principles is Arlene Blum of the Green Science Policy Institute (she led the first ever all-female ascent of Annapurna, amongst other things). She was joined by Toni Stefani, a firefighter who'd had cancer and was very concerned about the high levels of cancer amongst his fellow men and women. The Chicago Tribune did the investigating (and won the Pulitizer Prize for it), and the other key figure was a young pregnant (at the time) senator from Maine. The film gives lots of background to FRs, and is fair-minded in that it gives plenty of air time to the supporters of flame retardants. However, it's difficult to watch the film without drawing the conclusion that FRs are both unnecessary for the most part and actually harmful.

Exactly the same situation applies in the UK - same chemicals (on the whole) and the same FR companies pulling the strings in government and industry. Actually, it's worse here since our flammability regulations are tougher than the US's were, meaning even more FRs in our furniture. We're also behind in our understanding of the dangers. A situation which is hugely encouraged by the FR industry. For example, while the ordinary UK firefighter is increasingly very worried about their health, their union leaders are usually funded by the FR industry, thus they maintain the mantra, 'Flame retardants equal fire safety'.

WooWoo1000 Thu 06-Oct-16 04:20:57

Thanks, hope I can get hold of it! I don't trust anything anymore...swapping all of my cleaning products for Method non-toxic stuff and getting rid of lotions and potions in favour of pure coconut oil...can't believe I used to burn scented candles and have reed diffusers, all just nasty chemicals, urgh!

jennymor123 Thu 06-Oct-16 17:30:05

You might want to think about cosmetics, too. A professor of flammability once told me, by way of attacking criticism of flame retardants (he was funded by the industry) that there is even less known about the effects of chemicals in our shampoos, soaps, etc, and we apply those directly to our bodies every day. Okay, he had an agenda, but he's probably not wrong in this respect.

WooWoo1000 Thu 06-Oct-16 18:34:49

I agree, trying to change as much as I can...DH thinks I'm crazy!

jennymor123 Thu 06-Oct-16 18:58:20

CHEM Trust is a good source of information:

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