The pitfalls of fillings when buying a toxic-free sofa

The pitfalls of fillings when buying a toxic-free sofa

The upholstery techniques used in furniture have not changed much since upholstery started to become quite popular and available over 400 years ago. Frames, springs, and fabric covering techniques look mostly identical now to antique pieces. Filling materials, on the other hand, have changed a lot.

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Our obsession with sourcing wool locally

The wool we use in our furniture exemplifies our commitment to taking our core values as far as humanly possible. From the beginning, we have worked hard to find independent craftspeople, artisans and farmers in the Pacific Northwest who raise animals and produce superior wool batting and fabrics using sustainable and fair trade practices. Our goal is to make them part of a ‘living mission’ framework of production.

At Ecobalanza, living these also values requires that the origin, ethics of production and quality of these products is as important as the feel and aesthetic. That is why we offer our customers the ability to follow all aspects and components of the manufacturing and material to their very tangible origins.

The following farms and cooperatives and artisans with their own unique stories, methods and missions illustrate perfectly this Ecobalanza commitment:

  • A community of Decater Island in the Puget Sound’s San Juan Islands is a unique living example of a new evolving industry community.    A number of concerned local farmers organized to re-domesticate a herd of hearty feral Scottish Blackface sheep that were the surviving livestock of a farm abandoned in the 1950s.  Out of this venture formed a unique grassroots cooperative concerned for the welfare of the animals who are in turn producing a marketable product from their wool to sustain the animals and the cost of their care.
  • High-quality raw wool used for felting is sourced from a business in Chehalis run by Meg and Brad.
  • We source fine Cheviots Lamb’s wool, known for its resilience and memory for use in batting from Caroline in Snohomish. 
  • Maggie and Jim are skilled needlepoint specialists in Monroe who craft wool felt for Ecobalanza.

Contact us if you would like to learn more about our suppliers or visit our workshop in Seattle to touch and smell our 100% chemical free materials.





Avoiding toxins in your home

Did you know?

Tumor-causing flame retardant treatments: Polyurethane foam burns fast and hot,[iv] which is why it’s treated with flame retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), Melamine,[v] chlorinated tris (TDCPP) and chlorinated organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs).[vi] TDCPP negatively impacts fertility and tumor growth rates kidneys[vii] of which 8,000 tons are used every year.[viii] High-level exposure to melamine causes acute renal failure, urinary stone formation, and crystalluria.[ix]

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The ABCs of VOCs

In her blog, Christie's Non-Toxic Lifestyle, Christy Begien share some great insights into the impact of living with Volatile Organic Compounds. Visit her blog regularly to see how you can learn from her experiences.

VOC? What does that mean? The Minnesota Department of Health states that Volatile Organic Compounds are “a large group of carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature. While most people can smell high levels of some VOCs, other VOCs have no odor. Odor does NOT indicate the level of risk from inhalation of this group of chemicals.”

I’ll bet most of you have heard of formaldehyde.  It’s a VOC and considered volatile because it emits a gas at room temperature. As it warms up, more of the chemical off-gasses into a room.  (Off-gassing is the natural evaporation of chemicals.) The top three VOC offenders in our home? Carpeting, paint, and furniture and upholstery; all can carry VOCs, such as formaldehyde, toluene, and benzene, just to name a few.

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Choosing Safer Furniture

The Washington Toxics Coalition is a great resource for understanding the importance of paying attention to what is inside your furniture. Here are a few healthy tips to guide you:

  • If you’re not sure whether a piece of furniture contains toxic flame retardants, ask the manufacturer. If they are not able to tell you, consider an alternative.

  • If you already own furniture that may contain toxic flame retardants, cover and seal any rips in upholstery and replace old items where foam is exposed, loose, and crumbling.

  • Consider replacing furniture made of manufactured wood that contains formaldehyde-based glues. You can also apply a sealant, to contain the formaldehyde.

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Toxic Chemicals in our Couches

The use of flame retardant chemicals in furniture is a classic example of a stupid use of a chemical: they are ineffective in preventing furniture fires and are linked to serious health effects. In fact, the chemicals can make fires more toxic by forming deadly gases and soot -- real killers in most fires. Unfortunately, flame retardants surround us; they are in everything, from our curtains and carpet to our couches and other upholstered furniture.

For decades, an ineffective flammability standard, California's TB 117, has resulted in the foam inside our sofas, recliners, and love seats being saturated with pounds of toxic flame retardants. Though California has been the only state that required furniture to meet the standard, TB 117 became a default standard for furniture sold across the country. A recent study found that most couches in the United States contain at least one flame retardant chemical, whether or not they carry a TB 117 label.

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