Why should I test my sofa?

In the US, flame retardant chemicals are sometimes intentionally added to the foam filling present in many types of furniture (including some baby furniture) to meet a California state flammability standard commonly known as Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117). While only residential furniture sold in the state of California is required to meet this standard, manufacturers often make all their furniture to meet this standard [1]. The state of California is currently revising TB 117, and a new standard, referred to as TB 117-2013, will go into effect starting in January 2014 that should reduce the use of these flame retardants in furniture. However, it is currently unclear how the use of these chemicals will change starting in 2014.

How does this affect me?

Over the past 10-15 years, scientific evidence has demonstrated that some of these flame retardants are released from products and accumulate in indoor environments. People can be exposed to these chemicals indoors through inhalation and unintentional ingestion of dust particles [2,3,4]. The use of one flame retardant known as PentaBDE was phased out in 2004 due to concerns about the chemical’s persistence, its tendency to concentrate in human tissues, and potential human health effects.

This means other chemicals are currently used to meet flammability standards, but little information is available on how we are exposed to these new flame retardants, or if there are potential health effects. Because manufacturers are not required to label products with the flame retardant applications used, consumers cannot determine if flame retardants are in their products without laboratory testing.

How does this help me?

Duke's Superfund Research Center can now help you find out what chemicals may be present in the furniture in your home with funding support provided by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

If you are interested in sending us a sample of your foam for analysis, please complete the sample submission process.

How does this help you?

Data collected from this testing will help us to understand which flame retarding chemicals are currently being used in furniture. Once we have a sense of what chemicals are being used, we'll be able to investigate how people are exposed to these chemicals in the home and understand if the chemicals may impact human health.