Feature Article

Finding Furniture Without Toxic Flame Retardants

Flame retardants in upholstered furniture are easier to avoid under new rules, but they’re not gone. Here’s how to navigate the changing landscape.

April 6, 2015

Upholstered furniture is a firefighter’s nightmare. Typically made with a wood frame and flammable, petroleum-based foam cushioning, when ignited this seating quickly becomes a raging inferno that gives off toxic fumes and is difficult to extinguish.

Because of this fire danger, strict flammability standards for furniture were put in place in the 1970s, which led to the ubiquitous use of chemical flame retardants. However, these chemicals have proven ineffective at doing their job, while their toxicity has left health-oriented designers with few upholstered furniture options.