Macy’s Takes Steps to Ensure Furniture Flame Retardant Chemicals No Longer Used

Following intense pressure from environmental activists, Macy’s has publicly announced their commitment to discontinue the use of carcinogens and toxic flame retardants in furniture, due to adverse health consequences consumers may face from chemical exposure. 

Environmental activist group, Safer Chemical, Healthy families, issued a press release on October 20, announcing that Macy’s Inc. has agreed to stop using harmful fire prevention chemicals in sofas and other furniture pieces across the nation, after the group waged several petitions and campaigns against the retailer.

To be compliant with fire prevention risks, retailers followed regulations that require furniture to be injected with large amounts of chemical based flame retardants to pass a 12-second flammability test, a precaution hoping to prevent fires from cigarettes dropped onto sofas and other flammable furniture.

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In January, California challenged this regulation and as a result the “Flammability Standard for Upholstered Furniture/Articles Exempt from the Flammability Standard” was passed by the Department of Consumer Affairs, dictating that furniture must pass a test that demonstrates it will not smolder for more than 45 minutes after being lit on fire.

According to the Department of Consumer Affairs, the new regulation and preventative test will prevent harmful carcinogens from being added to furniture and prevent the chemicals from being released into the air of homes if a fire is started.

California adopted this new practice in January and environmental agencies, both governmental and independent, across the nation have encouraged the rest of the nation to follow suit.

According to Safer Chemicals, Healthy families, Macy’s Inc. responded to the activists recent Mind the Store campaign, which advocated for furniture retailers across the nation to phase out unnecessary toxic chemicals in flame retardants.

Macy’s response to the campaign, which brought in thousands of supporting emails from consumers, stated that the company did not believe any of its suppliers were still using harmful fire prevention chemicals, but would verify and instruct any remaining suppliers to cease doing so.

“We thank and congratulate Macy’s for taking this big step to make all sofas safe. This is an important victory for our Mind the Store campaign and millions of Macy’s customers nationwide,” said Mind the Store campaign director Mike Schade. “We urge the remaining retailers who have not acted, like Pier 1 Imports, to follow suit and phase out these unnecessary toxic chemicals once and for all.”

Macy’s competitors, such as Wal-Mart, Ikea-Group, and Ashley Furniture Industries Inc., have already taken similar actions. In addition to the furniture industry, retailers such as Home Depot Inc. and Lowe’s Cos. both announced they would be phasing out vinyl flooring with potentially toxic phthalates. Schade said that the group will continue pressuring other retailers such as Pier 1 Imports, Rooms to Go, and Berkshire Hathaway’s furniture stores.

The group’s major concern for phasing out the chemicals placed in flame retardant filled furniture is the potential side effects to consumers. Several studies have linked the flame retardants to cancer, brain damage, developmental disabilities, and cognitive impairment in children. Pregnant women have been observed to have dangerous levels of the chemicals in their blood due to breathing in the dust released from the chemical filled furniture.

In February 2015, a study published in the Journal of Reproductive Immunology found that women with higher levels of flame retardants in their blood were more likely to give birth to a premature baby. The side effects from premature births can be include respiratory problems, brain hemorrhage, cerebral palsy, heart, problems, hearing loss and many other serious and sometimes fatal conditions.


  • AlMay 18, 2016 at 2:37 am

    I've had a sofa from Macy's for a year and to this day the sofa causes my eyes to water and burn. No one can sit on the sofa for more than 30 minutes at a time without it causing a headache and watery eyes. What kind of chemicals were used?!?!

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