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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Study: Your Couch Is Killing You

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 1:35 PM

Dangerously comfortable
  • Dangerously comfortable

Beware couch potatoes: The one thing you can always count on -- a lazy day on your sofa -- is actually pretty bad for you.

According to a new, bizarre study, couches across the nation are retaining an unhealthy and dangerous level of toxic chemicals, enough that researchers say we should all be alarmed.

According to the study (yep, there's people who study couches), sofas across the nation are showing an increase in toxic flame retardants, prompting doctors and firefighters to urge immediate action.

See also: Cops Crack Down on Couch Potatoes in Golden Gate Park

Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown said the state would update California's flammability standard to promote fire safety and protect everyone from toxic chemicals. And this study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, only underscores just how urgent it is that we all watch our backs while lounging at home on the couch.

Sue Chiang, with Center for Environmental Health, participated in the study, and says the news about her couch makes her feel anything but relaxed.

"It's really distressing as a parent of two young children to learn that kids in California have the highest level of flame retardants in their bodies of anywhere in the nation," she says. "I unknowingly brought harm into my home when I purchased a new couch in California laden with flame retardant chemicals. Your home should be a place of comfort, not a place of toxic exposure."

"California should fast track changing its outdated standards so that families don't have to be needlessly exposed to these toxic chemicals," Chiang adds.

Arlene Blum, executive director of Green Science Policy Institute, and co-author of the couch study, says that her research suggests that more than one-third of Americans' couches contain the toxic flame retardant, Chlorinated Tris.

"Sadly enough, many Americans could now have increased cancer risks from ... their furniture," Blum says.

Firefighters are especially at risk when it comes to handling couches, says Tony Stefani, with the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation. "We already suffer from more cancer and unusual cancers than found in the general public. Getting rid of chemicals in couches can help prevent cancer in firefighters and other first responders when couches burn, because they do burn even with the flame retardant chemicals in them. In fact, the chemicals created more soot and smoke, making the fires even more dangerous," Stefani says.

Unfortunately, you can't really shop your way out of this problem.

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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