Tuesday, 1 January 2008

The Environmental Impact of the Upholstery Industry.

Worldwide, an area of forest the size of England is destroyed each year as a result of our insatiable demand for wood. The UK is the highest per capita user of industrial wood in the world. Tropical hardwoods, such as teak and mahogany, are often illegally sourced or from badly managed forests. Only certified products are guaranteed to come from properly managed sustainable sources.

Current stringent UK Fire Safety Regulations require all UK furniture manufacturers and upholsterers to comply with The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire)(Safety) Regulations 1988 which has led to the wide spread use of chemical flame retardants. However, there is evidence that certain flame retardants can off gas and find their way into our bodies with potentially harmful effects on our health. Formaldehyde, found in MDF, other timber composites, chemical flame retardants as well as wood preservatives and glues, are known to cause symptoms such as nausea, coughing, allergic reactions and fatigue. According to the World Health Organisation, it can cause cancer in humans and animals. Environmental lobbyists are trying to encourage manufacturers to replace more problematic chemical flame retardants with non-toxic or natural alternatives. For further information follow the links:

Polyurethane commonly used in wood finishes and sealants is known to cause cancer in humans.

Animal welfare is an issue with regard to furniture and textile production. All chemical flame retardants have been tested on animals as have synthetic dyes, scotch guard, finishers and chemicals used in textiles and furnishing materials. Also much of the leather and wool used in furnishing materials and fabrics comes from unethical sources. Below is a video by PETA about the wool trade which we found so disturbing we decided to share it in the hope that it will encourage people to think about provenance of wool products before buying and then choose organic wool from sheep reared in the UK.

Please note some people might find this video extremely upsetting.

For further information follow the links:

The current trend for buying furniture with a short lifespan, rather than investing in furniture which can last a lifetime and be passed on to future generations creates the massive problem of disposal. Foam fillings and other upholstery materials currently used in upholstered furniture cannot be recycled and contain chemical flame retardants which can off gas and leach out into the surrounding environment and groundwater from furniture dumped in landfill sites, while incineration can also release toxins into the environment.

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