How to Avoid Toxic Flame Retardants in Your Furniture

Dr. Oz Show correspondent Elisabeth Leamy shares how you can keep your home safe from hazardous chemicals.

Posted on | By Elisabeth Leamy

When the Dr. Oz Show screened several of our viewers’ furniture and baby gear for flame retardants, every single item tested positive. Some flame retardant chemicals have been linked to reduced fertility, birth defects, hyperactivity, hormonal disruptions, diminished IQ and cancer. Here’s advice for avoiding flame retardants in your future purchases and how to spot them in your home.

Are there already flame retardants in my home?

Look for a TB-117 label. Inspect your upholstered furniture for a label that says “...meets the flammability requirements of California's Technical Bulletin 117...” TB-117 is an antiflammability requirement that resulted in furniture makers adding flame retardants to furniture. If your furniture bears this label, it is likely to contain them. If it does not, it still may contain them. Look for polyurethane foam. Flame retardants are primarily used to treat this type of foam, so if the furniture label includes polyurethane foam as one of the materials, that is a clue that the item may contain flame retardants.

Check the date the furniture was manufactured. TB-117 went into effect in 1975 and at first affected only upholstered furniture sold in California. So if you bought polyurethane foam furniture in California after 1975, it likely contains flame retardants. However, furniture makers eventually found it too difficult to build one set of products for the Golden State and another for the rest of the country, so TB-117 became a defacto national standard.

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) says if you bought polyurethane foam furniture outside of California between 1975 and 2000, it has about a 50/50 likelihood of containing these chemicals, but the more recent your purchase, the more likely that it contains flame retardants. Environmental Working Group also cautions that foam products made before 2005 are the most hazardous because older flame retardants were more toxic.

Check the following products. Flame retardants are also sometimes used in other products such as electronics, carpet padding and building materials. Testing by Duke University has found them in children’s products such as car seats, changing table pads, nap mats and nursing pillows.

Article written by Elisabeth Leamy
Dr. Oz Show correspondent