Furniture Products

Why am I being warned about potential exposure to chemicals from furniture products?

  • Some furniture contains chemicals that are on the Proposition 65 list because they can cause cancer and/or birth defects or other reproductive harm.
  • Proposition 65 requires businesses to determine if they must provide a warning about exposures to listed chemicals.
 

Some furniture is made with chemicals on the Proposition 65 list. Some of these chemicals can be gradually released from the furniture into the air and can accumulate in dust.  You can be exposed to these chemicals when you use the furniture, or when you breathe the air or come into contact with dust containing these chemicals.

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Not all furniture products are made with chemicals on the Proposition 65 list.  Some furniture products containing Proposition 65 chemicals may not cause high enough exposures to require a warning.  A furniture product with a Proposition 65 warning suggests the product can expose you to levels of a listed chemical or chemicals that pose greater health risks than furniture that causes exposures to lower levels of listed chemicals.

  • Examples of listed chemicals that can be used in furniture are:
    • Flame retardants such as chlorinated tris (also known as TDCPP or TDCIPP), tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBA) are added to foam or textiles.  Most use of pentabromodiphenyl ether mixtures (PBDE) in the US ended in 2006, but it may be found in older furniture.
    • Formaldehyde is present in some particle board, paints, lacqueurs and coatings.
    • Phthalates are a family of chemicals added to many plastics to make them flexible.  They may be found in plastic furniture and vinyl textiles on cushions and other upholstery.

How does exposure to Proposition 65 chemicals from furniture occur?

  • During pregnancy, certain chemicals from furniture can pass from mother to baby.

How can I reduce my exposure to Proposition 65 chemicals from furniture?

  • Choose:
    • Formaldehyde-free furniture - made from solid wood, stainless steel, or particle board that does not contain formaldehyde
    • Furniture that does not have polyvinyl chloride (PVC) materials that contain phthalates.
    • Furniture with lower formaldehyde gas-emission labels. These can include:
      • “Exterior grade” pressed wood.
      • California Air Resources Board (CARB) Phase 2 criteria.
      • Utra-low-emitting formaldehyde (ULEF).
      • No-added formaldehyde (NAF).
    • Furniture that does not carry a Proposition 65 warning.
  • Avoid furniture made with urea-formaldehyde resins that does not carry a California Air Resources Board (CARB) Phase 2 compliant label.
  • Air out new furniture made from composite wood products containing formaldehyde. If possible, place the furniture initially in a well-ventilated area that has fresh air passing through it in order for the formaldehyde to be removed.
  • For upholstered furniture, check the label commonly found underneath the seat cushion, and look for:
    • TB 117-2013 label (sold after January 2015). Products with this label and marked “contain NO added flame retardant chemicals” do not contain significant levels of flame retardants.
    • TB 117 label (sold prior to 2015). The label will not indicate whether flame retardants are present. Products with this label are more likely to have flame retardants.
    • If you do not see a label, ask if flame retardants have been added to the product.
  • Look for children’s furniture that is labeled as not containing flame retardants.
  • Choose furniture products made with untreated polyurethane foam, or foam alternatives such as cotton, wool, and natural latex.
  • Replace or reupholster furniture that has damaged upholstery or crumbling foam.
  • Reduce exposure to dust, which can accumulate Proposition 65 chemicals.
    • Wash your hands and your child’s hands frequently, especially before preparing food and eating. 
    • Clean your floors regularly, using a wet mop if possible, or a vacuum with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. 
    • Dust regularly, using a damp cloth.

For more information:

General Fact Sheets and Resources

Scientific Information on Chemicals in Furniture

Proposition 65

  • California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA)
    Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)
Posted April 2018

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