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Tips for Buying Your First Real Couch

How to pick one that is both comfy and healthy

Congrats on making your next big #adulting decision! Your first foray into buying a real, large piece of furniture. Now come the big questions: where to look? How much does it really cost? How am I going to get it through the door (or up the stairs)? What color should it be?

One more thing to think about is what might be hiding in the couch. Things like chemicals or toxic substances that might sound like good things, but secretly aren't - like stain resistant fabric and flame-retardants. If you want to cut to the chase, look at our roundup of healthy modern couches you can buy online.


Flame Retardants

Flame-retardants used to be added to the foam in sofas but turns out they basically didn't do what they were supposed to do (stop fires) and instead are linked to cancer, lowered brain function, and irregularities with the immune system, just to name a few. Even firefighters agree flame retardants are no good. So, maybe we should rethink putting them in things.

If you're shopping for a new couch, anything made after 2015 will have a label under the cushions that will let you know if there are added flame retardants. Hint: you want the X by the one that says "without added flame retardants."

Many brands have updated their standards to be compliant. Some big name brands include IKEA, Crate and Barrel, Lay-Z-Boy, Restoration Hardware, and The Futon Shop. Many other brands are also meeting these standards. You can check online or ask a customer service representative for help. We also have put together a list of the brands we could find - find it at the end of the article.

If you're buying a used couch off of Craigslist, you have to investigate a bit more and might be taking a risk. If you find a label like this that says TB 117-2003, the only way to know is to ask the manufacturer, which could be kind of hard to do. If you see a label that says TB 117, then it it's more likely than not the couch was made with flame retardants. If it were us, we would steer clear.

Stain-Resistant Fabric

Is spilling red wine on a white couch without stains too good to be true? Short answer, probably. In order to have these super stain resistant, oil and water repellent, and waterproof abilities, manufacturers add a chemical to the fabric that is similar to the bad one in Teflon pans. They are called highly fluorinated chemicals, and include PFOA, which has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems, and decreased immune response in children.

These highly fluorinated chemicals will never break down or leave the environment and can mess with your hormones or cause your cells to mutate. While stain-resistance can be super convenient (if like me, you eat on the couch or have kids), we suggest getting a natural, untreated fabric and trying really hard not to spill on it. If you're accident prone, or have small kids or pets, choosing a textured or dark color fabric can hide stains. Couches with washable covers are another good option. That way you can take the cover off the one cushion that was victim to the spill and throw it in the washing machine.

You can also learn some tricks for the best way to clean up spills, preferably with little to no chemicals. For couches, try a lot of water and a little bit of dish soap. This is a tip from my grandma, so you know it works! We have a whole bunch more information about cleaning products you can check out, too.

Take Away Tips

Look for a couch that is:

  • Free of added flame-retardants
  • Is filled with a naturally flame resistant options like polyester or wool
  • Uses untreated fabric (or doesn't claim to be stain-resistant). Organic cotton is always a good option if available.
  • Super comfy and you love
You can also look for other certifications to help you determine what's in your furniture.

List of brands

These brands state they do not add flame retardants, compiled from CEH and Green Science Policy Institute. For other retailers, you need to ask about the couch you're interested in.

AICO, American Furniture Manufacturing, American Seating Company, Article, Ashley Furniture, Best Home Furnishings, Bernhardt, Benchmade Modern, Bradington Young, Broyhill, Burrow, California Sofa, C.R. Laine, Century, Cisco Home, Coco-Mat, Comfort Design, Compendium, Corinthian, Craftmaster, CB2, Crate & Barrel, Dania, David Edward, Drexel Heritage, Dwell Studio, EcoBalanza, EcoSelect, Eco-Terric, Ekla Home, Endicott Home Furnishings, Eco-Luxury, EQ3, Fairfield Chair, Flexsteel Inds, Furnature, GreenSofas, Gus Design Group, Henredon, Hickory Chair, Hickory White, Highland House, Homeware, Hooker Case Goods, Hooker Upholstery, IKEA, Interior Define, Kevin Charles Fine Upholstery, Kincaid Furniture, Klaussner, Kristin Drohan Collection, Land of Nod, Lane, La-Z-Boy, Lee Industries, Lillian August, Maitland Smith, McCreary Modern, Michael Weiss, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Monarch Sofas, MotionCraft, Mr. and Mrs. Howard for Sherrill Furniture, Pacific West Furniture, Palliser Furniture, Pearson, Plummers, Precedent, Restoration Hardware, Roger + Chris, Room & Board, Sam Moore, Scandinavian Designs, Sherrill Furniture, Soma Ergonomics, Southern Furniture, Southern Motion, Staples, Taylor King, Thom Filicia, Thomasville, The Futon Shop, United Furniture Industries, Vanguard Furniture, Viesso, Whittemore Sherrill Ltd.

Family

Keep These Common Household Items Out of Reach From Teething Babies

And why we recommend always having a safe teether on hand

We're all guilty of just letting our teething baby chew anything they can get their hands on. What's the harm as long as it's not a choking hazard? A little dirt is good right? Turns out, there are some common household items that you definitely don't want your kids to chew on because they contain toxic chemicals or substances like lead and flame retardants. We recommend always having a safe teether on hand, whether you're at home or on the go. Even though common everyday items may look harmless, there can be unsafe substances that your little one can ingest if they're chewing on them.

Wondering what household items could be harmful to chew on? Here are some common items that you shouldn't let your little one chew on, even though it's so tempting to let them gnaw.

Keys

Keys are always in our purses or pockets and babies are fascinated with them. Sometimes they're the perfect distraction to avoiding a meltdown in the grocery story line. But it's actually not a good idea to let your little ones chew on keys or even play with them. The metals used to make keys vary greatly, but many brass keys can contain up to 2.5% lead (1,2). Even keys that don't look like brass might be plated in another metal, which can wear off over time. Not all keys contain lead, but it's impossible to know for sure which ones do and don't. So pick one of our safe teethers, including these Kleynimal Stainless Steel Keys, and make sure to pack it for your next grocery run.

Remote Controls

Remotes have colorful buttons and fit perfectly in little hands, so it's no wonder you always see babies chewing on the ends. But remotes contain batteries, which are not safe anywhere near your child's mouth. Additionally, household electronics like remotes contain flame retardants, which can come off into mouths and on hands. Try to limit contact with remotes and definitely don't let them become toys! We like to keep them out of reach on a shelf.

Cell Phones

It seems like all babies become obsessed with cell phones... probably because they see us constantly looking at them! But is it safe to let your baby chew or mouth your phone? Definitely not. Cell phones are covered in germs, including some pretty nasty pathogens like E. Coli (3). They also contain a lot of chemicals and substances, like batteries, heavy metals, flame retardants, and plasticizers, which are all toxic. Plus, if your baby is teething or has teeth, they could chip the phone and little pieces could come off that can be a choking hazard. Because of all these hazards, teething babies and cell phones are not a good match. But if your child is old enough to play games on your phone, wash their (and your!) hands after they use it, especially before snacks and meals.

Jewelry

Jewelry is sparkly, shiny, and colorful, which basically just screams "please put me in your mouth!" to babies. Unfortunately, metal jewelry can contain toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium while plastic jewelry can contain bisphenols or plasticizers. Lead is a dangerous neurotoxin at any dose, and cadmium can cause kidney, bone, and lung damage. Brass is also a common component in jewelry, which can contain up to 3% lead. And just because it's expensive doesn't mean it's safer; jewelry at all sorts of price points have been found to contain these heavy metals. Research has found that the amount of heavy metals that get ingested while chewing or mouthing jewelry can be dangerous (4). Even jewelry that seems completely harmless, like Mardi Gras beads, has been found to contain toxic substances. So let jewelry be just something nice to look at and let kids chew on a set of silicone teething beads instead.

Sunglasses

Sunglasses come in all sorts of sizes and shapes nowadays, but most sunglasses are made of a polycarbonate plastic that contains BPA. While it may not be a big exposure risk for adults who wear them, letting your little one chew on them or suck the ends is not the best idea. BPA is a hormone disruptor and kids are especially vulnerable as they are in a sensitive growth period. Yet another reason to always pack a safe teether in your bag if your little one is an especially mouthy one!

References
  1. https://cchp.ucsf.edu/sites/g/files/tkssra181/f/leadinkeysen011804.pdf
  2. Kondrashov, Vladislav, et al. "Assessment of lead exposure risk in locksmiths." International journal of environmental research and public health 2.1 (2005): 164-169.
  3. Pal, Shekhar, et al. "Mobile phones: Reservoirs for the transmission of nosocomial pathogens." Advanced biomedical research 4 (2015).
  4. Weidenhamer, Jeffrey D., et al. "Bioavailability of cadmium in inexpensive jewelry." Environmental health perspectives 119.7 (2011): 1029-1033.
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Roundups

9 Non-Toxic Teethers

Your baby will love chewing on these safe materials!

We're all guilty of just letting our teething baby chew anything they can get their hands on. What's the harm as long as it's not a choking hazard? A little dirt is good right? Turns out, there are some common household items that you definitely don't want your kids to chew on because they contain toxic chemicals or substances like lead and flame retardants. Having a safe teether made of silicone or wood is your best bet for your baby's health. Check out our 9 favorite options that will give your little one some relief and will also make for some cute photos!


9 Non-Toxic Teethers

a) Bonbino Teething Rings

b) Itzy Ritzy Cactus Teether

c) Loulou lollipop Llama Teether

d) Chewbeads Elephant Teether

e) Caaocho Sola the Goat

f) Bumkins Gameboy Teether

g) Maple Landmark Ring Teether

h) Oli and Carol Kendall the Kale

i) Kleynimals Toy Keys

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Home

Non-Toxic Candle Roundup

They smell even better than they look! Plus no harmful chemicals

Trying to set the perfect mood for Valentine's Day? We've got you covered! Our candle roundup is a great guide to finding the perfect candle. Most candles contain paraffin wax, which is made from petroleum and use fragrance oil. And fragrance can contain a ton of harmful chemicals. Our candles only use natural wax like soy or beeswax, and only contain essential oils! Plus they all smell amazing!



a) Aira Soy Candles
b) Lulu Candles Natura 100% Organic Soy Vegan Wax Candle
c) Big Dipper Beeswax Aromatherapy candle
d) Milk + Honey essential oil candle
e) Pure Plant Home glass candle
f) Edens Garden essential oil candles

Wondering why you need a non-toxic candle? Candles release compounds known as volatile organic compounds whether they are lit or not (1). VOCs can have both short and long term adverse health effects and there are consistently higher concentrations of VOCs indoors than outdoors. The majority of the VOCs released from candles is because they doesn't burn cleanly, which releases acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, phenol, benzene, and toluene, many of which are carcinogenic (3). Phenols (one of the words in that list if you jumped to the end of the sentence when you started seeing a bunch of scary words) are the fragrance chemicals that make candles smell like brown sugar, wild mango, and clean laundry. It makes sense that it would take some pretty weird chemicals to bottle up the smell of a tropical island in a single candle, right?

It's definitely healthier and safer to go with candles scented with essential oils to avoid some of these nasty VOCs. A few of the other VOCs released can cause changes to our DNA (and in some cases, bad changes!). Of all of the VOCs released, formaldehyde and acrolein are the other two biggest worries because they are released in the highest concentrations. Formaldehyde itself can cause cancer (4) while acrolein, which is used to make weapons in high concentrations, can kill you if you breathe in too much of it - Yikes (5). I don't know about you, but those are some things I definitely don't want to invite to my relaxing spa night!

Candles are also traditionally and most commonly made of paraffin, which is obtained from petroleum or shale. We recommend candles made from beeswax or soy because they come from natural sources. Some candles wicks may contain lead, so always make sure to look for a "lead-free" wick made from cotton.


References

1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304389414010243

2. http://candles.org/elements-of-a-candle/wax/

3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231010010502

4. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=39

5. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp124-c1-b.pdf


*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.







First off, nice! We are super excited for you!

Now that the relationship is serious, have you started thinking a little bit more about what your life might be like together in the future? Maybe you are at the point where you are leaving a toothbrush at the other's place, or maybe it's a little more serious - like talking about moving in together. No matter how serious "serious" is for you, we've got a suggestion for making that step of the relationship a little healthier.

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Non-Toxic Safe Sex Brands

Safe sex is good, non-toxic safe sex is better

Updated for 2020!

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PFAS Free Winter Jackets

Stay warm without the harmful chemicals

A lot of weather-proof jackets contain harmful chemicals like PFAS or PFOA. That's why we found the best PFAS-free winter jackets for your next trip to the mountains ! These jackets will keep you nice and warm without the use of those pesky forever chemicals. And since snow season is winding down (for some.. ) there are a ton of sales on right now! You can grab a new jacket for this winter or one for next year! ⁠ ⁠

a) Picture Organic Clothing Week End Jacket
b) Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket
c) Nau Clothing Reykjavik Insulated Jacket
d) Jack Wolfskin Powder Mountain Jacket⁠

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PFAS Free Ski Wax

What to know before your next trip to the mountains!

If you're heading up to the slopes this week , you might want to double check what your ski wax is made from. Ski wax is a necessity to enjoy the sport but it turns out, most wax contains a ton of fluorinated chemicals like PFAS and PFOA . Fluorinated wax may make your skis glide a little easier, but it's super bad for the environment (and you!). That's why we've found some brands that made fluoro-free ski wax. ⁠ ⁠

a) Rex G21 Graphite Spray⁠
b) Toko Non Fluoro Glidewax
c) North by Swix Speed Brick Universal Wax
d) mountainFLOW Quick Wax ⁠
e) Swix F4 Universal Easy Glide Wax
f) Ulla Glide Wax

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Sign up for our newsletter! Curated environmental health news delivered to your inbox every three weeks.
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