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How to choose flame-retardant free furniture

UPDATE: In October 2015, Macy’s announced that it would stop selling furniture containing flame retardants!

Keeping your family safe and healthy can be difficult these days. It seems like every new product that comes out has some scary toxic chemical in it just waiting to be linked to equally scary health problems.

Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants are perfect examples of toxic chemicals hiding in everyday consumer products. They are used in numerous common household and office products including upholstered furniture, electronics, insulation, wire, and cable to decrease the products’ flammability. However, recent studies have shown that toxic flame retardants may do more harm than good.

Some flame retardant chemicals have been linked to “serious health problems including cancer, reduced IQ, developmental delays, obesity, and reproductive difficulties…and have been found in 97% of all Americans tested.(Center for Environmental Health.) Because flame retardants are not chemically bound to the materials they are incorporated in, they can easily leach out of products and be ingested or inhaled, making their way into our bodies as a result.

Scary, right? Fortunately, there’s a solution! Here’s how you can find flame-retardant free furniture:

Big retailers eliminating toxic flame retardants in furniture

For the newspaper buffs:

These retailers told the Chicago Tribune they had mostly eliminated flame retardants:

Securing the commitment from Ashley Furniture was a big victory for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store Campaign, as Ashley is the largest manufacturer and retailer of furniture in the country. This served as a major step in driving the furniture sector away from these harmful chemicals, influencing other furniture retailers and competitors to follow Ashley’s lead.

“If Ashley follows other companies and stops using flame retardants, the chemicals could be a thing of the past in residential furniture,” Bob Luedeka, executive director of the Polyurethane Foam Association, told the Chicago Tribune.

For the conscious consumers:

Earlier this year, the Chicago Tribune reported these retailers told their vendors to stop adding flame retardants to their products:

Others like Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, have responded to consumer queries indicating their furniture no longer contains toxic flame retardants.

For the Twitter addicts:

Some retailers, such as Ethan Allen, have tweeted that all of their furniture was free of toxic flame retardants:

Ethan Allen

Some retailers lagging behind – it’s time they Mind the Store!

The furniture retail industry isn’t totally perfect yet.

To date, these major furniture retailers have remained silent about whether or not they’ve taken action on toxic flame retardants in furniture, some of which did not respond to NRDC’s furniture survey last year:


American Signature

Art Van Furniture

Berkshire Hathaway (who owns Nebraska Furniture Mart, RC Willey Home Furnishings, Star Furniture Company, and Jordan’s Furniture, Inc.)

Big Lots




Mathis Brothers

Mattress Firm

Pier 1 Imports

Raymour & Flanigan

Rooms to Go

Select Comfort


The Mind the Store campaign is calling on these major retailers to join the growing market movement away from toxic flame retardants in furniture and other products.

If other big retailers like Ashley Furniture can do it, so can they! And if they have already taken action, we believe their customers have the right to know, so they can purchase safer furniture for their families.

Simple steps to reduce your exposure to toxic flame retardants

Until all of these retailers are able to accomplish this, in the meantime here are some easy tips for you to kick toxic chemicals out of your life:

  1. Check the label before you buy upholstered furniture — don’t buy furniture that carries the old TB 117 label. Look for the new TB 117-2013 label and verify with the store or the other label (see below) that the product does not contain flame retardants.
  2. Look for flame-retardant free labels under furniture and cushions, which are required thanks to a new California law width=
  3. Open windows and clean your office and/or living area frequently to minimize contact with dust. Vacuum carpets with a vacuum that contains a HEPA filter.
  4. Damp mop floors and damp dust furniture on a regular basis.
  5. Wash your hands often, especially before eating.
  6. Learn more: Check out the Center for Environmental Health’s two new reports, Kicking Toxic Chemicals Out of the Office and Residential Furniture Survey. The reports provide a comprehensive summary of flame retardants, their health effects, and what is happening with them in terms of policy and legislation. The reports also include even more extensive lists of brands that have eliminated or pledged to eliminate flame retardants from their products.
  7. Watch Toxic Hotseat.
  8. Get involved in our Mind the Store campaign to call on big retailers like Costco and Macy’s to eliminate toxic flame retardants and other harmful chemicals.