Flame Retardant-Free Gliders, Rockers & Sofas

According to NPR’s article on Flame Retardants, 85% of couches tested in a recent Americal Chemical Society study contained at least one flame retardant chemical in the foam cushioning.  Why is this such a concern one may ask?  Prior to 2005, sofas likely contained chemicals called penta-BDEs which were phased out because of toxicity concerns.  Manufacturers then began using Tris (TDCPP) as a flame retardant.  Tris was banned in children’s sleepwear in the 1970s because it caused cancer in lab animals and this chemical was found in half of the sofas tested in the study.

Another study conducted by the Americal Chemical Society in late 2012 found fire retardants in household dust. In 75% of the homes tested, the dust contained Tris.  Many homes also had related chemicals (TCEP and TDCIPP) listed as carcinogens by the state of California.

Current California law (Technical Bulletin 117) was established in 1975 and requires the interior of upholstered furniture to be able to withstand a direct flame for at least 12 seconds before catching on fire.  This law resulted in the furniture industry’s use of flame retardant chemicals to treat upholstery.  The problem is not contained to just California – many manufacturers follow California’s guidelines nationwide as it is not cost effective to produce furniture exclusively for the state.

The good news is that in February of 2013, California proposed an update to their flammability standard which would require smolder tests for fabrics, rather than open flame tests for foam, which should all but eliminate the need for flame retardants. In November 2013, a new standard was adopted that now requires upholstery fabric to resist a smoldering cigarette. This new standard will begin to phase in on January 1, 2014 and require manufacturer compliance by January 1, 2015. Note that the updated rule does not ban the use of flame retardant chemicals (the rule no longer requires foam to be flame retardant) but manufacturers have said they expect to stop adding them to furniture foam.

Until furniture manufacturers remove these chemicals, our children are exposed to these toxic chemicals in our upholstered furniture on a daily basis.  Although it is much more prevalant to find organic crib mattresses, pillows and changing pads, it is not easy to find furniture manufacturers who produce rocking chairs and sofas which are flame retardant-free.  The options for non-toxic furniture manufacturers are listed below for reference.  The prices are higher but in many cases, are not as steep as I had originally thought. I am looking forward to 2015 when we can hopefully list only those manufacturers that are still using flame retardant chemicals and it becomes the norm to no longer find these dangerous chemicals in our upholstered furniture!

Nursery Rocking Chairs/Gliders

Monte Design Group

Monte Design Group‘s furniture is handmade in Canada. Their rockers and gliders are made from FSC-certified hardwood and PBDE-free soybean-based foam. As they are Canadian and do not have the flame retardant regulations outlined above, you will need to request the non-flame retardant foam that they sell in Canada if you are USA based and not residing in California.  If you reside in California, Monte Design is using a flame retardant called HF-5 to meet the Technical Bulletin 117 requirements.  This foam is halogen free and free of mercury, lead and other heavy metals. It is also free of CFC, PBDE and TDCPP (Tris).

Sofas and Chairs

Viesso

Viesso furniture is made in the USA and if you purchase an upholstered piece with their “Extreme Green” option, it will be manufactured without flame retardants and harmful chemicals. Per their website, all upholstered Viesso products including beds, sofas, and benches are made with natural elements like jute webbing and a cotton seat deck, instead of the usual synthetic counterparts. You can also choose how green your want your sofa, specifying at every step what kind of frame, filling, glue and stains you want used.

EcoBalanza

EcoBalanza furniture is made in Seattle using natural, organic and recycled materials. They use locally sourced organic wool as their flame retardant. Per their website, their furniture is made from:

FSC-Certified wood
100% Natural latex foam, no fillers
Organic cotton batting
Locally sourced organic wool as fire retardant
GreenGuard® certified water-based adhesives
Organic cotton/hemp muslin

The downside is that their prices are not posted online. You will need to contact EcoBalanza for a price quote which will depend on your choice of fabric.

Room & Board, Crate & Barrel and West Elm

Update as of March 2015: The good news is that Room & Board,Crate & Barrel and West Elm are now offering furniture that is chemical flame retardant free! Throughout this year, it would be prudent to call customer service when placing your order to ensure that you are receiving a furniture piece that has been made since January 2015 (FR free) as older stock may still be in the warehouse. All custom orders will be FR free as these are made when ordered.


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10 comments


  1. Ross Endicott

    As of 2014, CA no longer requires chemical flame retardants. As of 2015, CA requires zero flame retardants in sofas. Condofurniture.com has offered its Condo Sofa line of furniture without flame retardants since 2012. Affordable, customizable, designed in Maine and individually bench crafted in NC with zero chemical flame retardants. Shipping to all lower 48 states.

  2. robyn

    Do you think the Monte Glider is safe for VOC emissions even though it is made of polyurethane foam? I know it is untreated, but still not sure if that foam is considered safe. Thanks!!

  3. happytotmom

    The foam being used by Monte Design is a low VOC product (CertiPUR-US certified which means that VOC emissions are less than 0.5 parts per million). However, just as I did even with our Naturepedic organic mattress, I would suggest off gassing before using to be cautious. VOCs can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to dissipate depending on a number of variables (type/amount of synthetic materials, how much fresh air is being exchanged, temperature/humidity) so with this product being a low VOC product, I would off gas for a few weeks. FYI – just to be extra cautious, I had the windows open and had our organic mattress in another room for 4 weeks before using. I just do this for all furniture. Hope this helps!

  4. sarah

    I noticed that you commented on the Precedent Furniture page regarding flame retardants in their sofas. Were you able to find any other information about the safety of the materials used in those upholstered sofas?

  5. happytotmom

    Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for the reminder to give an update! I had recently posted on Facebook about all Room & Board’s upholstered furniture now being FR free which is great news! Just this week, I also confirmed with West Elm that their upholstery is also free of flame retardant chemicals. I have updated this blog post accordingly. Thanks for asking!

  6. Rob F

    All of Monte Design products are flame retardant free (Both Canada and US)

  7. Bonnie Weiss-McDonald

    I have purchased 2 recliners that made me sick. I am just learning about the chemicals and off gassing from furniture and how toxic they are. I live in the Seattle area, have called four ‘green furniture stores’ but none of them make recliners or chairs with moveable parts. I have a small space where the chair is to be placed so an ottoman won’t work. Does anyone know of a manufacturer or store in the Pacific NW that sells non-toxic chairs?

    Thanks.

  8. Ashley

    Great list – planning to buy a Monte kids chair. I wanted to add Cre-8 A Couch to the list. They are a CA company that offers custom couches, and have a FR-free option. I bought two matching couches and have been very happy, and found the price to be way more reasonable than I was expecting – less than Pottery Barn and similar brands, with many more fabric and style options.

  9. happytotmom

    Thanks for passing on the information!

  10. Julia M

    Thanks for this great post. I’m in the midst of looking for a glider and, while I love the monte chairs, I find I’m a bit tall to use them comfortably. I recently tried out a glider made by mon bebe, which is great, but which I can’t find any info on….does anyone know how this company rates in comparison to these others? Thanks!!

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