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Less-Toxic Furniture

safer choices for furniture and building materials without toxic chemicals

Mattresses, couches, and padded chairs

  • Avoid furniture that is marketed as stain-resistant, and do not apply stain-resistant treatments onto fabrics.
  • Avoid products that contain PVC, such as inflatable furniture, artificial leather, PVC-coated fabrics, and vinyl furniture covers.
  • Choose products that do not contain toxic flame retardants (PBDEs), which are often used in furniture upholstery and foam.

For foam mattresses, choose from companies that do not use toxic flame retardants (PBDEs), such as IKEA, Sealy, Serta, Simmons, and Spring Air. As of January 1, 2008, mattresses treated with PBDEs are banned in Washington state!

Other retailers offering PBDE-free products include:
Greener Lifestyles (couches and chairs)
Soaring Heart (mattresses and futons)
Furnature (couches and chairs)
Bean Products (couches and chairs)
Naturepedic (crib mattresses)

For more information on companies offering PBDE-free products, see:

Safer Products Project
Smart Shopper’s PBDE Card

If you cannot find information on whether a manufacturer uses PBDEs, contact them directly.

Also, if you already own furniture that contains PBDEs, cover and seal any rips in upholstery, and consider replacing old items where foam is exposed, loose, and crumbling. Cover mattresses with PVC-free allergen-barrier casings to reduce the amount of PBDE-laden dust that they release.

 

Solid furniture such as tables, shelving, and dressers

The best options for solid furniture are solid wood, metal, and glass. If possible, avoid products made of manufactured wood products such as particleboard, fiberboard, and plywood, especially if they contain urea-formaldehyde glues. IKEA uses less-toxic glues in their products, and some manufactured wood products containing less-toxic glues are available if you would like to build your own furniture.

If you already own furniture made of manufactured wood products, increase ventilation to reduce levels of formaldehyde, as well as other pollutants, in indoor air. Sealants can also be applied to exposed surfaces to reduce the levels of formaldehyde that are released. For more information on formaldehyde, see:

Consumer Product Safety Commission, An update on formaldehyde: 1997 Revision

Healthy Building Network: Formaldehyde and Wood


Resources for More Information

To locate less-toxic sealants, finishes, and other building materials, consult the Environmental Home Center.

Another good resource is the book The Healthy House by John Bower, published by the Healthy House Institute.