Since the 1970s, chemical flame retardants have been added to the cushions of upholstered furniture, such as couches. It’s long been understood that these chemicals are bad for humans, having been linked to birth defects and cancer.
According to new research published in Environmental International, old couches are shedding these dangerous dusts onto your floor, and in concentrations that could affect your health.
“These are real risks. When you look at some of these values, you say, that’s just a little bit of dust. A drop in the bucket,” says Kathryn Rodgers, a researcher at the breast cancer research organization Silent Spring Institute and the lead author of the paper. “But for people’s exposures when they’re in their homes many hours a day . . . these exposures add up. They’re day in, day out. And they are real.”
The good news is that by replacing the couch—or even just its internal cushioning—it’s possible to reduce dangerous dusts in your home to negligible levels.