Can your couch give you cancer? - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Can your couch give you cancer?

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Comfy, spacious, luxurious, and a commonplace in most households for all to gather, but something hidden beneath could be cancerous.

Whether you know it or not some couches now come with a warning on the tag. Although they might not be verbatim, they all have the same meaning. “This product is known to the state of California to cause harm or birth defects.”

This is thanks to a California law called Technical Bulletin 117. It required furniture manufacturers to use flame retardant chemicals. These chemicals have been in the spotlight recently as new studies have linked them to cancer. But is it deterring consumers?

“Not really it doesn’t , no,” said Larry Boggs.

Upholsterers say the regulations have been a way of life for a while now.

"A lot of federal regulations have been adapted from California, for some reason California was on the front end of this. They spearheaded the requirements that everything meet certain flammability standards," said Roy Goodell

But with this law only impacting California, why does the rest of the country’s furniture meet these standards.


“It required the foam inside a piece of furniture to resist a small open flame. Only California had this regulation but it’s a big state and manufacturers only wanted to make one kind of furniture so they made furniture for all of the United States to meet the California standard,” said Dr. Blum, a researcher at the University of California Berkeley.

Researchers like Dr. Blum say these flame retardants don't stay in your couch, which could cause harm.

“The chemicals are always coming out of your couch. It turns out there is lots of them in your couch and not many in the air. So they want to balance, so they just keep moving from the couch to the air and then they are heavy so they drop into dust. You get a little dust on your hands, and you eat a sandwich, you're eating flame retardants,” said Dr. Blum.

Scientists at Duke University found people who live in homes where the dust has high levels of flame retardant are four times more likely to have large, aggressive thyroid tumors. Experts suggest more studies are needed, but even these warning labels aren't scaring locals away from these products

“California is crazy,” said Jared Wolf.

There is some good news however. Recent changes have updated the use of fire retardants. Now foams in couches don’t need them and it's the fabrics that do the firefighting by using synthetic bases or a new weave patterns. Both of which resist catching fire, but don't require the cancer-causing chemicals. 

You can find fabrics which meet the new standards in most made in America upholstery. Be on the lookout for fabrics and materials that meet flammability standards across multiple state requirements.

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