Does the Furniture at Ikea Contain Brominated Flame Retardants?


Should I throw away the upholstered chairs and couch in my living room? And where is away? And how can I replace them? Ikea?

My cat Midnight has hyperthyroid disease, thought to be caused by PBDEs, and has gone from being a healthy fourteen pound cat to an unhappy seven pound cat in a year. According to a veterinary epidemiologist who is doing a study of cats with hyperthyroid disease and the dust in their houses, Midnight has very high levels of PBDE’s and there is 95 ppm PBDE’s in my house dust, which is phenomenally high. The Environmental Working Group in 2005 did a study of 10 U.S. homes’ dust and found a median of ~3 ppm .

So I need to figure out what to do to reduce the PBDEs and other flame retardants in my house. I had bromine levels measured in my house last week with the XRF gun and this is what I learned with regard to the percent bromine, presumably PBDEs in my furniture:

Foam in Lazy Boy Rocker purchased new in 1987.  (foam)          4.55% bromine
Foam in Blue Couch and Chair bought used in 1987   (foam)      2.50%
Blue office chair in Annalise’s room                                                  1.72%
TV in living room                                                                                   16.8%
Annalise’s bed and Snuffy                                                                   passed
Annalise’s new chair from Bali with a TB 117 label                        passed
Office Dell computer                                                                            passed
Red office chair purchased in Colorado                                           passed

How can I dispose of my furniture high in BFrs and what can I replace it with?

Yesterday, my friend Raphael and I measured levels at her house and at Ikea with the XRF gun. We were concerned about being escorted out of the store or worse, but spent three hours testing furniture at Ikea with no one noticing.

The results were that Raphael’s new furniture imported from Italy has no organic bromine or chlorine in it, but her old couch from pottery barn is about 3 per cent PBDEs.

At Ikea we found there are some lines with no BFrs, (mostly less expensive lines), others with high levels(mostly more expensive lines) and lots in between. The the love seat that Raphael wanted to buy to replace her bromine-filled couch in her family room had no BFrs in the seat cushions but a medium level in the back cushions.

I found furniture I like that doesn’t contain BFrs and apparently doesn’t have CFrs though this measurement is less clear.

Now I have to hire a truck to take my furniture to the dump. It doesn’t seem right to give to Good Will.

And what about everyone else’s furniture?

And what about the upcoming CA flammability standard for pillows and bedding, scheduled for 2007. So far the agency implementing it is not required to consider the impact of millions of pounds of bedding made polymerized from toxic chemicals on workers, consumers, or the environment. (Most of the bedding will be a polymer with the fire retardant chemicals mixed with the fiber, which is thought to be safe for human health, but there has been no testing to see if there are any toxic monomers left on the fibre).

With fire safe cigarettes in CA, the major reason to fire retard our bedding is to protect against candle fires. Could we have fire safe candles instead of fire retardant bedding and pillows?

Does anyone have ideas or know of a journalist who might be interest in this as a story?



Arlene Blum
Phone:   510 644-3164
Fax:        510 644-2164
Cell:       510 919-6363
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