IKEA Phasing Out Tris Flame Retardants From Furniture

A Slate reporter was bowled over by the pungent chemical aroma her new IKEA sofa emitted after she took of the package. She carved off a little piece of the mattress foam and sent it to a lab, which found it contained a funky flame retardant called “chlorinated tris.” This is interesting as brominated tris was banned from children’s sleepwear in 1977 after studies showed it was a skin-absorbable carcinogenic.

When the Slate reporter contacted IKEA, they told her they’re phasing out all chlorinated tris flame retardants from their furniture by August 2010. IKEA said they will replace the tris with “an organo-phosphorous compound which gets incorporated into the polymer matrix of the foam filling,” and that it is, “a bit early to say if this solution will be the dominant one for our products.”

The smart folks at Consumer Reports tell me that chlorinated tris is geometrically similar to brominated tris, but the case for them being similar is not crystal clear, although it is a reasonable presumption. It’s not clear either how much tris exposure results from sitting on the sofa.

Later that year, the CPSC ban was extended to tris-treated fabric, yarn and fiber, but mattress foam was not mentioned. Also, the odor the reporter smelled doesn’t come from the flame retardants, but other parts of the foam manufacturing process.

It’s a touchy issue because you have to balance things not catching on fire vs not getting poisoned by your furniture. The real issue is the highly flammable polyurethane foam. So far a less-flammable alternative has not been found that’s suitable for cushioning your bum.

My Ikea Couch Reeks of Chemicals [Slate] (Thanks to Judie!)
CPSC Bans TRIS-Treated Children’s Garments [CPSC]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Brian Cooks says:

    Their furniture has always been REALLY smelly for the first couple days after you buy and unpack it.

    • Kuchen says:

      Yeah, we got our couch from there and it gave me a headache to be in the same room with it for the first week until it aired out.

  2. suez says:

    All I know is that whenever I shop in IKEA, my hands swell up and itch. This never happens at any other time. I’ve told my friends and they didn’t believe me…until the came along one time and I showed them. You could SEE it. It’s clearly an allergic reaction to something in the store, but I’ve yet to figure out what, exactly…

    • shamowfski says:

      Stop going to Ikea?

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      My fiancée is the same way. She just gets really sneezy, though.

      I, for one, have no problems with IKEA stuff. In fact, I kind of enjoy that funky smell. It’s like new car to me…

      • Ominous Gamer says:

        That “new car smell” has been shown to cause health problems… considering its a combo of glue and fresh chemicals, its no big surprise.

        • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

          I also kind of like the smell of gasoline.

          Look,I’m not saying I actively seek this stuff out. In fact, I don’t. I just happen to find that smell sort of nice.

          However, I do not like drywall that smells like flatulence. That’s where I draw my strange limit.

        • MamaBug says:


  3. HowdyHowdyHowdy says:

    I thought there was an article on here or somewhere about the strong chemicals used to make furniture and it’s not just at Ikea, but at several different places. So other than organic, what’s safe?

  4. AllanG54 says:

    All this because a few folks spontaneously combusted.