By Alexandra Spunt for No More Dirty Looks
I spend a lot of time on my couch. I’m not above a 5-hour television marathon, or sitting on it all Sunday as I poke around on my computer and my husband watches golf. I’m on it right now.
The couch in question is from Ikea, it traveled from my husband’s previous apartment, and it’s made of plastic—well, faux leather. The model has since been cancelled because people’s couches, ours included, starting looking like they were melting in spots, which is some kind of defect of this mysterious material.
It’s a surprisingly attractive looking couch, not one that makes you think “wow, those people have a plastic couch.” But I think about that often enough, and it bugs be not because I care that it’s cheap (or cheap-looking) but that I suspect the thing carries with it more chemicals than I can count, and probably more than one endocrine disruptor (and bendy plastics tend to).
But apparently everyone’s couch is filled with potentially harmful chemicals, not just my plastic beauty. In a recent New York Times article Nick Kristof (a bigger hero to us by the day) he talks about the flame retardents in sofas, and a new investigative series called “Playing With Fire” in the Chicago Tribune.
The Tribune series is exhaustive, and maybe on Sunday I’ll plop onto my couch and read it through. In the meantime, Kristof highlights some of the infuriating facts about how flame retardants got into our sofas. Instead of paraphrasing, I’ve exerted sections of his article below.
Chances are that if you’re sitting on a couch right now, it contains flame retardants. This will probably do no good if your house catches fire — although it may release toxic smoke.
There is growing concern that the chemicals are hazardous, with evidence mounting of links to cancer, fetal impairment and reproductive problems.
It turns out that our furniture first became full of flame retardants because of the tobacco industry… tobacco companies mounted a surreptitious campaign for flame retardant furniture, rather than safe cigarettes, as the best way to reduce house fires.