Magazine article E Magazine

Toxic Furniture and Mad Deer

Magazine article E Magazine

Toxic Furniture and Mad Deer

Article excerpt

Is it true that furniture is a major contributor to indoor air pollution? --Jon Kaplan, Brooklyn, NY

Many toxic materials are used in traditional furniture-making processes. The paints, varnishes and waxes commonly employed can release the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are known to affect indoor air quality. One of the most common VOCs is formaldehyde, which is used in glues and is added to paints as a preservative and to upholstery to make it permanent-press. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, formaldehyde emissions can cause eye and throat irritation, allergic reactions and possibly cancer.

Some furnishings are made of absorbent materials that make them "sinks" for other pollutants. For example, fabric surfaces such as draperies, up holstered furniture and carpeting can absorb and then re-release pollutants into the air. Besides absorbing the VOCs from adhesives and paints, these furnishings can collect dust mites, bacteria and fungi, especially in areas of high humidity, leading to a wide range of allergic reactions.

Luckily for those sensitive to indoor air pollution, many toxic-free alternatives to traditional furniture exist. For instance, California-based Tamalpais Nature Works uses toxic-free finishes on its attractive furniture. The company's paints, stains and waxes are from BioShield, which makes its products out of citrus peel extracts, essential oils, tree resins, bee waxes and natural pigments. Massachusetts-based Furnature is one of a handful of companies using organic upholstery. The company started making furniture for chemically sensitive people more than a decade ago.

Hemp, a durable fiber that is six times stronger than cotton and very low in pesticide residues, is also occasionally employed in "green" furniture. Bean Products of Chicago uses hemp upholstery on its chairs, ottomans, couches and beds, and employs an air-blasting process to soften the otherwise tough fabric.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which now relies on voluntary guidelines, is considering regulating furniture for indoor air pollution through a pilot program. …

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