It might not be the color green—maybe you prefer blue or white or brown. But your sofa should be green in another sense. It should be made of natural materials that are nontoxic, safe and healthful for you and every member of your family.
The bad news is, most sofas aren’t. They’re full of unnecessary chemicals that undermine your health. And the planet’s, too.
In search of a nontoxic, eco-friendly couch
Consumers are growing increasingly concerned about the quantities of toxic chemicals that are pumped into everyday products. Among the worst are chemical flame retardants, which have been linked to cancer, obesity, infertility, and developmental brain disorders such as ADHD and autism. They’re poisonous to the environment, too, found in outdoor air and even in Arctic wildlife.
The most widespread news about flame retardants (HBO’s Toxic Hot Seat documentary, Frontline's program on PBS, the Chicago Tribune’s award-winning investigation, The Human Experiment documentary and other reports) has focused on sofas. Like most mattresses, most sofas and similar upholstered furniture contain foams and fabrics that are loaded with toxic compounds—flame retardants, formaldehyde, pesticides and other “chemical soup” ingredients.
Ever notice a puff of air when you sit down on your couch? It’s full of microscopic dust particles that carry tiny doses of the chemicals the foam and other synthetic materials contain. You breathe them in, touch them, and even eat them—even in the cleanest home. Everyone is vulnerable to their long-term effects, but especially infants and children, who absorb five times more chemical exposures than adults do.
Scientists say the risk comes from chronic, low-dose, daily exposures, which is just what happens with ordinary use of your furnishings.