Nothing is more fun than making your home look stylish and chic with a touch of you thrown in. Your design ideas come together in an amalgam of creativity and spend-ability; trading designer this, for Ikea that to be able to afford the overall ‘look’ you want. Well feel glad you opted for the Ikea piece instead of one that broke the bank…unless your designer piece was antique or ‘green‘.
Safety has taken priority in the manufacturing of household furniture for many years. Unfortunately, this has meant that, in order to fireproof all that surrounds us in our homes, toxic flame retardants have been used with abandon, lulling us into false security. I agree that fire safety is important, but the plastic and foams used in furniture have been treated with fire-retardant polybrominated diphenylethers or PBDEs which are exceedingly hazardous to your health. These PBDEs can be found in furniture, mattresses and your car too.
Prolonged exposure to PDBEs has been linked to cancer and other illnesses. Women were literally feeding their children contaminated breast milk, just by sitting on fire-retardant furniture, sleeping on fire-safe mattresses, and driving cars with fire-retardant seats…Yuck! In fact, California led the way in voting to phase out PBDEs entirely by 2008. Other states have followed: including New York, Maine, Hawaii, Michigan, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, and Washington. Other states are following. Strangely, the USA has a much higher rate of PBDE contamination than other industrialized nations. This is largely due to many European nations using alternative, less toxic means by using less flammable materials. Sweden noted a considerable drop in PBDE levels after banning the substance in the early 1990’s.
The USA has now banned certain PBDEs but there are still many loopholes in the American system.
There are three common mixtures of these chemicals — penta, octa, and deca. Penta and octa are no longer produced in the U.S., but millions of pounds remain in homes, offices, and the environment due to extensive use in consumer products. Deca is still used widely, with about 50 million pounds a year in the U.S. used primarily in television casings. Deca is also approved for use in residential upholstered furniture and mattresses to meet flame retardant standards. Deca has been shown to break down into penta and octa.
There are ways to protect against PBDE exposure:
1. Buy from Ikea. Yes, the comment made earlier really does apply. The furnishing giant does not use PBDEs in their furniture at all.
2. Look for furniture made from natural products such as soy or water-based glues. These glues are generally used with other materials such as organic cottons, organic latex etc. Search for stores manufacturing products with these materials and they are more likely to be PBDE free.
3. Help with recycling and buy vintage. Pre-used furniture will have leached out many PBDEs if they were applied in the first place. If the furniture is old enough, it would not have had any flame-retardants applied in the first place. As a bonus, there are some mighty fine pieces of yesteryear to grace your home and add some wow to you decor!
4. Look for new furniture made with wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). They certify that wood is grown and harvested in a habitat-friendly way.
Companies that manufacture goods without the toxic PBDEs: