From Dr. Mercola:
Many couches in U.S. homes contain foam cushions that are comfortable to sit on but are hiding a dirty, dangerous secret. They’re loaded with toxic flame-retardant chemicals. Such chemicals were added largely as the result of California Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117), which was passed in 1975.
It required furniture sold in California to withstand a 12-second exposure to a small flame without igniting — a requirement manufacturers met by dousing furniture in flame retardants.
We’re not talking about a quick dusting of the chemicals, either. Flame retardants may make up 11 percent of the foam’s weight, and many couches contain 1 pound or more.1 The chemicals do not stay safely “sealed” inside the foam.
Rather, they can easily migrate from the cushions into your home’s air and settle in household dust. The chemicals may be inhaled or transferred into your mouth via dust (the latter of which is especially common among infants and children).
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley revealed that both in utero and childhood exposures to flame-retardant chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) were associated with neurodevelopmental delays, including decreased attention, fine motor coordination, and cognition in school-age children.2
However, even adults are at risk. New research suggests PBDEs may be damaging to thyroid health, particularly for post-menopausal women.
Flame Retardants Linked to Thyroid Disease in Women
Estrogen levels regulate thyroid hormones, and PBDEs are known to disrupt estrogenic activity as well as thyroid levels. Past research has suggested, for instance, that PBDEs can lead to decreases in TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone).3
In the new study, researchers found women with the highest concentrations of PBDEs in their blood had an increased risk of thyroid disease compared to those with lower concentrations.4 The link was particularly strong among post-menopausal women.
The researchers theorized post-menopausal women may be particularly vulnerable to PBDE-induced thyroid effects because of low estrogen reserves. The researchers concluded:5
“Exposure to [PBDEs] 47, 99, and 100 is associated with thyroid disease in a national sample of U.S. women, with greater effects observed post-menopause, suggesting that the disruption of thyroid signaling by PBDEs may be enhanced by the altered estrogen levels during menopause.”
Your couch may indeed, be particularly problematic for your thyroid based on these results. Research published in Environmental Science & Technology revealed that 85 percent of couch foam samples tested contained chemical flame retardants.6
PBDEs’ Toxic Legacy
PBDEs have been banned in the U.S. since 2004 (and in the state of California since 2003) due to health concerns. However, the chemicals are very slow to break down in the environment and accumulate in your body, leaving a toxic legacy behind.
Further, many products that contain PBDEs are still being used in U.S. homes. Polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses and pillows, are likely to contain PBDEs.
If you have any of these in your home, inspect them carefully and replace ripped covers and/or any foam that appears