Study: Chemicals found in couches could make you sick

Study: Chemicals found in couches could make you sick »Play Video
SEATTLE -- The same chemicals that protect your furniture from fire could also make you sick, and now there's a push to find a safer way to fend off flames.

Rachel Koller and her husband cut out a small piece of their foam couch cushion to be tested for chemicals. Researchers tested that sample and hundreds of others around the county, and the results have upset many parents.

The study, which appeared in a publication called Environmental Science and Technology, found that 85 percent of the couches tested contained high levels of toxic flame retardants.

"It's very frustrating when we learn we have brought in industrial chemicals that are harmful to our health into our homes unknowingly," said Koller, who has a 5-year-old daughter.

Researches say the chemicals found on the couches are associated with neurological and reproductive problems, as well as cancer. The study found that on some of the couches, chemicals made up roughly 10 percent of the weight of the entire cushion.

"And these flame retardants are not chemically bound to the foam, so then they actually escape into our household air and collect in our dust," said Erika Schreder, medical director of the Washington Toxics Coalition.

The American Chemical Council represents companies that make flame retardant chemicals. The council issued a written statement on Wednesday denying a connection between the chemicals and health problems.

"There is no data in this study that indicates that the levels of flame retardants found would cause any human health problems," the statement reads.

That explanation offers no comfort to Koller.

"I care so much about this issue because I care about heath," she said.

The Washington Toxics Coalition says it's working with two state legislators on a bill that would ensure the use of safer flame retardants.