Office Pollution: A Dangerous Tale. 
Who would think furniture could be dangerous? Yet most traditional furniture is made with materials, paints and finishes that are highly toxic. These materials can cause a variety of allergic reactions, some quite severe.

Amazingly, one of the key culprits commonly used in furniture is formaldehyde! It’s used in furniture glue, as a preservative in paint, and is added to fabric to make it “permanent press.” The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says “formaldehyde emissions can cause eye and throat irritation, allergic reactions and possibly cancer.”

That’s just the beginning of this tale.

Many of the absorbent materials used in draperies, upholstered furniture and carpeting can absorb, then release pollutants into the surrounding areas. This then can trigger asthma or other allergies.

Before you run out screaming to look for those plastic furniture covers your grandparents had, here are some things to watch out for to help you avoid some of this allergy-triggering quagmire.

First, steer clear of “stain resistant” furniture. And don’t use those stain resistant chemicals either. These conveniences can cause you trouble.

Stay away from products made with PVC. These include artificial leather, PVC-coated fabrics and vinyl furniture covers.

Watch out for furniture made with toxic flame retardants (PBDE’s). According to a recent report by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, “a high percentage of California furniture contains toxic chemicals that have been linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption, and reproductive and neurological dysfunction.” These retardants are often used to meet California’s strict flammability regulations.

Non-PBDE furniture may not be easy to find, but one retailer can be counted on and that’s IKEA. Their products don’t use them.

There are a number of options for allergy-free, green office furniture. California-based Tamalpais Nature Works uses toxic-free finishes. Massachusetts-based Furnature makes elegant-looking sofas with organic upholstery. The number of companies providing these safer products is growing, as is the demand for them. And the prices and quality are comparable to traditional office furniture. With more people being diagnosed as chemically sensitive, relief may be in the form of a great new chair.

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