If you bought your sofa before 2005, you could be at risk from hazardous chemicals.
The startling answer is, possibly, yes.
Two studies, one focusing on sofa cushions and the other on household dust, found flame-retardant chemicals linked to cancer and hormone disruption that are "probably present in nearly every American home," Time reports.
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One of the chemicals the studies detected, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) has been described by the Environmental Protection Agency as possibly causing "liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity and neurodevelopmental toxicity" and has been phased out of manufacturing since 2004. A banned insecticide, DDT, was found in the household dust samples since it can cause cancer and disrupt reproductive development. And finally tris, which according to Time is an "agent known to break up DNA in chromosomes that was banned from children's sleepwear because of its cancer-causing potential" was also detected along with newer chemicals being used in place of the harmful PBDEs, which have not been adequately tested for safety.
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In the past, the U.S. Government has tried to protect against harmful chemicals like these, but according to Dr. Lorynn Divita, Associate Professor of Apparel Merchandising at Baylor University "governmental attempts to ensure consumer safety have not yet found the proper balance between protection from accidents versus environmental safety."
Divita explains that "the U.S. Flammable Fabrics Act was originally passed back in 1953 after a series of children's deaths that involved highly flammable apparel fabrics, and it did remove a lot of potentially dangerous products from the market. The act was expanded to include interiors fabrics in 1967, but it hasn't changed much from then until today.
"With technical advancements as well as improved consumer awareness about environmental issues, the Federal Trade Commission would be wise to revisit the act and modify it to meet today's needs," Divita said.
Since recalls have not been made on sofas made before 2004 when PBDEs were phased out of manufacturing, Time advises that "replacing older couches with newer ones (those made after 2005 were less likely to contain PBDEs), vacuuming with a HEPA filter and wet-mopping to thoroughly remove dust can reduce exposure to stubborn particulates that may have migrated from treated furniture."
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How old is your living room couch? Will you go out and get a new couch to avoid these toxic chemicals?
Photo credit: Flickr/Triplezero