Thursday, March 19, 2009

He who smelt it...

The harmful emissions released into the atmosphere from my sofa, have more to do with the 3 boys playing Cod-5 and eating Cheesies, than chemicals – but, I do remember that "new sofa smell".

That new car, new sheets, new mattress smell was likely ‘off-gassing', and is often associated with sick building syndrome. VOCs (Volatile Air Compounds) are the carbon-based chemicals used in furniture manufacturing that can evaporate at room temperature. (Like wine!) Also, new furniture materials and foams contains formaldehyde, which is considered a carcinogen and can lead to skin, eye and respiratory irritation. This nasty off-gassing eventually fades away with time and ventilation, but your fear of furniture shopping likely never will. 

Years ago, I worked with an art director named Joe Durning, who came from a large Irish/Italian family with a ton of kids. Joe told me a story about his mother being so sick and tired of her kids destroying her furniture that one day she PAINTED the sofa. It was her way of slip covering. Maybe she was on to something –  re-use, recycle – long before it was trendy. Those old sofas may be butt-ugly, but it seems they're better for our health and the environment.

A recent study, “Killer Couches,” by Friends of the Earth, tested 350 pieces of household furniture in stores and domestic residences and found high levels of toxic, halogenated fire retardants. The report states, "the most toxic, bio-accumulative, cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting fire retardants are being used in furniture manufacturing."  And that's in tree-hugging California! 

Kinda makes that hunt for the perfect loveseat a little more thought provoking.

I found hundreds of scary articles about toxic furniture and fabrics, but there is good news: The boys will eventually go away to university. And, there are great "green" fabrics and furniture collections on the market with safe stuffing (soya!?) and made of 100% recycled polyester or organic cotton. Thornbloom, in Spring Garden Place carries a line of organic bedding and even organic toxin-free mattresses. For those who wake up, stuffed up and puffier than normal, it could be the 20-year old mattress you're lying on. (Or the glass of Great Shark you had before bed). Sadly, to date none of these products are Cheesie-dust resistant, but Al Gore assures me they are working on it.

So, when someone from the bench yells, "PUFFER!" and 27 hockey parents go running to the car for Jimmy's asthma medication, maybe it's not just the Zamboni fumes – maybe it's your TV room!

Naturaworld mattresses at Thornbloom, Spring Garden Place 902.425.8005