Is your couch making you sick?

Lara Abramov

| 2 min read

Young woman sleeping under blanket
With winter in full force, many folks head to the comfy confines of their couch to ride out the cold weather. I know on many occasions I’m guilty of nesting in my couch on blustery days when it’s just too cold and too dark to go outside after work.
Not as comforting as you think
While we may find respite from chilly temperatures on our couches, recent reports indicate that this may be harmful to our health. Aside from the sedentary side effects of couch nesting, the chemicals found in your couch could actually make you and your children sick.
A Duke University study released late last year revealed that of 102 couches tested:
  • Eighty-five percent were treated with some type of untested or potentially toxic flame retardant
  • Seventeen percent contained the now banned chemical PBDE
To meet California’s flammability standard, manufacturers have been treating the polyurethane foam in couches and other furniture with flame retardants. However, this practice isn’t limited to couches sold only in California; with the couch market being as big as it is in that state, manufactures have been using this treatment process across the board, on all couches.
According to the Duke study, flame retardants are linked to:
  • Hormone disruption
  • Some forms of cancer
  • Neurological toxicity
The flame retardants used in couches make up 11 percent of the polyurethane’s foam total weight. And, surprisingly enough, the study reveals that flame retardants are most common in couches five years old or less.
An additional study on utero and childhood exposure to PBDE penned by research scientists from the Center for Environmental Research, the University of California Berkeley and the CDC found that the levels of PBDE concentrations in the mother were linked to following in their children:
  • ‘Impaired attention’
  • Poor fine motor coordination
  • Decreased verbal and full-scale IQ scores
Our everyday environment is filled with many toxins that can be very harmful to our health. Even things as seemingly innocent as our couches can make us sick. Regardless of the winter weather, these studies definitely make we want to re-think my relationship with my couch. What about you? Do these findings inspire you to spend less time on the couch?
Photo credit: Emily Lewis

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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