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Couches Without Toxic Flame Retardants – Coming Soon to a Major Retailer Near You

couch-scene-3Great news! A new report released today by NRDC found that some major furniture retailers are beginning to sell couches without hazardous flame retardants, in response to updates to California’s flame retardant regulations. Literally pounds of these chemicals can be found in your average couch, and the chemicals have been linked to cancer and even learning and developmental disabilities in children. Today’s report comes on the heels of new legislation introduced just last week by Senator Chuck Schumer that would ban ten of the most toxic flame retardants in furniture and children’s products.

In their report NRDC surveyed 16 of the nation’s top furniture retailers, businesses such as Ikea, Walmart, Target, and Crate and Barrel, and asked them two simple questions: 1) Whether they would start offering TB117-2013 compliant furniture without added flame retardant chemicals; and 2) How can customers identify which upholstered furniture products contain the chemicals?

The new report clearly shows that you can make sofas and other upholstered furniture that meets California’s new flammability standards without unnecessary toxic flame retardants that are harmful to our health. The report also shows that some major furniture retailers, such as Pier 1, still have their work cut out for them in bringing safer couches to market.

Leaders and laggards

The responses to the NRDC survey reveal for the first time that some major retailers, such as Futon Shop and Crate & Barrel already offer flame-retardant free furniture, some such as Williams-Sonoma and Ikea are planning to bring them to market by January 2015, and others such as Target, Macy’s, and Sears either have no plans to or did not respond to the survey. Often times, we as customers have no way of knowing whether or not a product contains a hazardous chemical. The report revealed that in some cases, retailers will state on their website or product label which furniture doesn’t contain flame retardants, and in other cases you can ask the retailer’s “customer service” staff.

Find out how retailers ranked in this screenshot from the report below:

NRDC survey results

Walmart and Target – where do they stand?

We’re pleased to see that major furniture retailers are already beginning to respond to the changes to the California flammability regulations, especially as our Mind the Store Campaign has been challenging the nation’s biggest retailers such as Walmart and Target (both profiled in the NRDC report) to phase out toxic chemicals like flame retardants in their products. We believe retailers have a responsibility to ensure their products are safe.

Walmart responded to the survey stating they will be carrying flame retardant-free furniture, and that customers could find out by talking with customer service staff. However Walmart did not state when the products would be available on store shelves, unlike other retailers profiled in the report. In the past, Walmart has also taken action on flame retardants in other products. Target responded to the survey, but unfortunately did not commit to offering furniture free of toxic flame retardants, unlike Walmart, Ikea and other top retailers.

Given that both Target and Walmart have already adopted more comprehensive chemical policies, which we have publicly congratulated them on, and recently have been working together to address chemicals in their supply chains, we are hopeful both will continue to improve and expand their chemicals management policies by phasing out toxic flame retardants in furniture they sell in the year to come.

Five easy steps to take action for toxic-free furniture

NRDC’s new report shows that furniture retailers and manufacturers can carry furniture without dangerous flame retardants. Help us and our partners continue to shift the market away from these chemicals – here’s five easy ways you can help today:

  1. Find out how to find flame retardant-free products using NRDC’s handy report today.
  2. Contact the nation’s top retailers and urge them to take action on toxic chemicals like flame retardants.
  3. Contact your Senator and urge them to co-sponsor Senator Schumer’s new flame retardant bill – S.2811 – Children and Firefighters Protection Act of 2014
  4. Get your couch tested for toxic flame retardants. Here’s how.
  5. Watch the new HBO documentary Toxic Hotseat.

In the meantime, we congratulate the retailers that have taken steps to bring more flame retardant-free furniture to market, and hope other major retailers will join them in the months to come.