Once you go non-toxic, there's no turning back. Unfortunately, it's hard to conveniently forget what you've read (in horror) about commonplace practices that are anything BUT okay. The use of chemical flame retardants disturbs me; there's no way around it. The history surrounding WHY flame retardants are in pretty much, well, everything these days is disturbing, the list of flame retardants used to treat even pillows mothers use to nurse their babies on is disturbing, and what flame retardants do to humans and the environment is- you guessed it- DISTURBING!
Here's the thing: our old couch needed to go. It was broken, it was ugly, and we wanted a new one. Unfortunately, purchasing a non-toxic, organic, handmade couch was out of the question. Two (three?) words: full-time student. My husband is in CRNA school (aka not working a paying job at the moment) and spending obscene (but well worth it) amounts of money on a couch that doesn't contain flame retardants wasn't exactly in the picture when we decided it was time to upgrade a few months ago. Second best option? Go to IKEA.
The problem is that I didn't exactly have time to do research, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to find anything within a reasonable price range that would meet my standards. So, we took the dive (and made the LONG drive to IKEA) and bought this sofa. I refused to allow myself to do any research on what flame retardants IKEA is currently using, but then I learned that Duke University is conducting a study on polyurethane foam and flame retardants. In short, the general public is allowed to send in any sample of foam that Duke will test for common flame retardants, for FREE! You get the results back along with some great information about flame retardants. It was too good to be true; I couldn't resist! So I clipped a little corner of our new couch and submitted it. I also sent in a sample of our old couch, of a Nook Pebble Lite mattress, and of my Clek Foonf. I'll write more about the results of the others soon; today, IKEA gets the spotlight ;)
Now, for the information you probably just endured all that reading to find. What flame retardant is IKEA using to treat the polyurethane foam on their sofas? I can't promise this is what they're using on everything, but our EKTORP sofa (purchased May 2014) tested positive for the flame retardant TCPP.
According to Duke University, "TCPP is very similar in structure to TDCPP – it’s used as an additive flame retardant in resins, polymers, latexes, and foams, and is most widely used in the US (annual estimations are 4,500-22,700 metric tons). As a relatively new flame retardant additive, little is known about possible health effects."
Now, since it's so similar in structure, here's what Duke University has to say about TDCPP: "TDCPP, or tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate, is an organophosphate flame retardant that is being used to replace PentaBDE. TDCPP, which is used as an additive flame retardant in resins, polymers, latexes, and foams, is most widely used in the US (annual estimations are 4,500-22,700 metric tons). There is evidence that TDCPP is a probable carcinogen and a developmental neurotoxicant, as well as an endocrine disruptor in fish."
Is this good news? If I'm going to be honest, no chemical flame retardant is good news (in my opinion). BUT I'm telling myself it could have been worse. I'm also okay with the results because I didn't think I was buying a product that was non-toxic or free of chemical flame retardants. If we'd purchased a $3000+ couch that wasn't supposed to have any chemical flame retardants in it and I got these results, I'd be REALLY, really, really upset. Kind of like the situation with our Nook Pebble Lite mattress... but I'm waiting to see how Nook Sleep Systems handles everything before I publicly speak about that. Because maybe they'll do the right thing. And if they don't? Well, I hope they don't underestimate the power of a passionate mother with a blog.
Until next time, friends!