Health Hazards Of PBDE Fire Retardants In Soft Furniture

When homeowners talk about environmental health hazards in the house, the focus is often on formaldehyde exposure from furniture crafted with pressed woods.

This is often limited to hard furniture.

Soft furniture, however don’t get the attention it should.

Soft furniture refers to furnishings like cushion covers, curtains, skirtings, pillows, mattresses, sofas, bean bags, etc. And they can pose as much concern as their “hard” cousins.

The obvious danger with these household items is polyurethane foam. This is a petroleum product made from oil.

This is a health hazard because polyurethane foam is commonly used in manufacturing household products and one of it’s properties is that it breaks down easily. Sending tiny particles into the air we breathe.

One of which should be a primary concern is fire retardants.

PBDE fire retardants

This substance is contained in polyurethane foam because polyurethane foam is very flammable.

So to prevent thing from exploding into flames when you are scratching your back, when polyurethane foam is used in making soft furniture, it has to be doused in fire retardants.

These are heavy duty chemicals that wouldn’t look out of place in a manufacturing plant in an industrial factory specifically kept 300 miles away from any nearby cities.

Up to the year 2005, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) were the most commonly used fire retardants.

That was before the adverse health aspects of it was discovered.

However, this is one of those substances that might not affect a lot of people, but when it find a vulnerable host, it can cause absolute chaos to that person’s health.

This is why even though it has the potential to harm an individual’s health, a lot of people are still oblivious to it’s dangers even though they have been sitting on a chair containing PBDEs for years without any negative effects.

Well… maybe there are… just that people don’t realize that the source of their health problems might have originated from under their buttocks!

Health risks

It has been found that PBDEs have the same compound structure as certain neurotoxins.

This means that it has the potential to cause conditions such as:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Immunity deficiencies
  • Liver damage
  • Thyroid issues
  • Brain development problems
  • Cancer
  • etc

I believe the list above say a lot about the amount of attention that PBDEs deserve.

Managing exposure

If you have soft furniture and furnishings sitting around the house since before 2005, the odds are pretty high that they contain PBDEs.

That old 20 year old couch is no longer something to joke about with your friends. You need to take action to keep your family and yourself safe.

If for example, there are pillows containing polyurethane that is beyond repair, consider disposing it altogether.

If that is not possible, then at least to use a pillow case that totally encases the pillow without allowing anything to escape.

When buying new furniture for the house, give used items a miss especially if they are made before 2005.

Choose those containing natural fillings or something like wool.

When practical, purchase upholstered products so that you don’t bring that risk into the home. You can always buy cushions separately for comfort.

And finally, consider vacuuming the house often to remove any concentration of PBDEs in products and also those that are already airborne at home.