As you furnish your new, larger home, you’ll want to ensure clean air, not to mention a safe environment for you and your loved ones. Furniture can contain toxic chemicals hidden in the glue, gloss, and fabric, such as volatile organic compounds, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, and flame retardants. Manufacturers aren’t required to list what they use in creating furniture, so you and your family may be exposed to toxins without realising it. Here’s what you need to do to avoid toxic furniture and ensure a healthy living environment for you and your loved ones.
Look For Third-Party Certifications to Identify Sustainable Brands
Some of the most common toxins in the home include but aren’t limited to:
- Benzene, toluene, xylene, and styrene
- Phthalates & Bisphenol A
- Vinyl acetate
The best way to make sure you’re not purchasing toxic furniture is to look for accredited certifications. Don’t trust the manufacturer’s self-declaration of conformity. A third-party certification offers peace of mind – it’s the best way for you to gain assurance when purchasing furniture. It will be noted on the label or product description. It’s crucial to have certifications such as OEKO-TEX because they guarantee product quality, brand value, and commitment to trust.
If a product is OEKO TEX certified, this indicates it’s free of chemicals that have the potential to cause harm and, above all, is safe for human use. Every component, from the fabric to the thread and accessories, has been thoroughly tested against a seemingly endless list of chemicals. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that furniture items without this certification are toxic, but there’s no way of knowing. Third-party certification guarantees that an independent organisation has reviewed the product and deemed its performance agreeable.
The OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100 has been accepted worldwide as a mark of quality for raw, semi-finished, and finished textile products for some time now. The examination takes into consideration legal regulations like the banned azo dyes. As they’re classified as carcinogenic, azo dyes are prohibited in Europe. At any rate, the lab tests are undertaken by 16 member institutes of the OEKO-TEX Association, each with proven expertise. As opposed to third-party certifications, you can’t trust the information on a label. If it says “non-toxic,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that the product meets this specific requirement.
Ensure The Furniture Is Designed to Be Recycled
Only non-toxic furniture can be recycled ecologically and economically, so ensure the furniture can be sold, donated, or passed down to another person in your family. Sustainable furnishings are easy to dismantle, so if a leg breaks, you can fix the issue right away. If you can’t afford to buy new furniture for your home, buying second-hand is an option; the furniture will have little to no impact on your indoor air quality. Breathing in fumes every now and then isn’t dangerous, but exposure over time can lead to major health issues. Off-gassing lasts between six months and five years, depending on the household item.
Preferable materials for furniture are locally-sourced wood, organic cotton, and linen, to name a few. According to the experts, it’s not feasible to furnish every room in the home with non-toxic pieces – non-toxic furniture pieces are made with components that cost more for a manufacturer to use, so they’re more expensive. It would be best to prioritise some items over others. If you have no idea where to start, start with the furnishings you spend a lot of time interacting with. Take the sofa as an example. Even if it’s primarily used for seating, it can be used for sleeping too.
Avoid PVC And Flame Retardants
PVC is commonly used in furniture owing to its desirable characteristics – strength, durability, and lightweight. It withstands water, pests, rot, and mildew. Various furniture items can be made using PVC, such as chairs, tables, bed frames, sofas, bookshelves, and DVD racks. Attention must be paid to the fact that PVC in itself isn’t toxic. Nevertheless, to make PVC more stable or more flexible, phthalates (or lead) are added to the composition. It goes without saying that these by-products can have adverse health effects, such as cancer and reproductive and developmental issues.
Flame retardants are commonly added to products like Tv cases. The presence of an ignition source activates flame retardants, which cause neurological damage, hormone disruption, and even cancer. The chemicals can leach from furniture items into dust, food, and water, meaning they can be ingested. Youngsters are more vulnerable to the toxic effects as their brains and other organs are still developing, so it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that flame retardants cause hyperactivity and ADHD. When shopping for furniture, check the labels to ensure it doesn’t contain added flame retardants. Don’t lose sight of the fact that manufacturers aren’t required to disclose their use of chemicals.
Wrapping It Up
It’s impossible to completely avoid toxins in your home, even if you have a significant budget. Harmful substances are everywhere. While exposure is difficult to avoid, there are things you can do to be proactive. For example, make sure the upholstery is made from natural and organic fabrics that are OEKO-TEX certified. Some brands greenwash even if they have good intentions, so you need the assurance a company’s marketing materials have genuine merits. A certification like OEKO-TEX relies on a strict verification process, ensuring the organisation’s internal operations comply with a set of standards.
When you purchase new furniture, keep the windows open for as long as possible. Equally, you can turn on an air purifier to reduce the impact of volatile organic compounds and other chemicals; it removes the particles from the air and circulates cleaner air back into the room. Plants clean up the air, so include local varieties of hardy plants – don’t opt for anything exotic. If you want to improve your home’s air quality, opt for English Ivy, Bamboo palm, Calathea, and ficuses, to name a few. Making your own furniture is worthwhile, but remember that some pieces are difficult to build while others are easier. It can be safer for your home.