Photographed by Mindy Best.
From Netflix time to nap time, couches are sacred spaces as far as we're concerned. But, the uproar about toxic chemicals found in our furniture had us a little bit panicked. Recent legislation and a creative couch-testing lab at Duke University is helping to get the situation under control, reports The Atlantic.
Specifically, the toxins found in couches are flame retardants that have been linked to the development of cancer cells, lower IQs, and hyperactivity. Flame retardants were introduced to a wide variety of furniture in order to comply with California's Technical Bulletin 117, which was introduced in 1975. This standard was revised last year, and a new standard went into effect at the beginning of 2014. The new rules don't forbid chemicals, but they make it possible for manufacturers to pass the flammability tests without those flame retardants. And, trying to find a couch without these chemicals can be both difficult and costly — often in the thousands of dollars.
So, the Duke University lab has started crowdsourcing couch cushions. Through their submission process, anyone can have their polyurethane foam tested for toxins. With this information, the user gets the fun of knowing what's in their furniture, and the scientists get a better idea of how we're being exposed to chemicals. As of this June, they've found flame retardants in 68 samples out of 113. Most of the samples were couches, but they've detected the chemicals in all kinds of places we regularly place our patooties, including chairs, car seats, and mattresses.
As the revised standards take effect, and the testing system builds up a more extensive library of toxin-containing couches, we may soon be able to relax and put up our feet again.