What’s in my foam?

hazardous_chemicalsOver the past year, we’ve written a lot about our research on how certain flame retardant chemicals have the potential to impact human health. You can visit our posts on exposure to flame retardants and their effects on maternal and child health.

This free testing is open to the public and each household can send us up to 5 samples from your furniture! For more information about why we’re doing this, what we’re doing, and how you can participate, visit the project’s website.

If you’d like to contact us with questions or concerns, please email us at foam@duke.edu


Why flame retardants?

Polyurethane foam
Polyurethane foam

Since house fires are dangerous (and can be deadly), California passed regulations requiring household furniture to meet specific flammability standards. Some materials in furniture (e.g. polyurethane foam) are more flammable than others, and therefore have additional chemicals added to them to meet the standard. Flammability standards have resulted in the widespread use of flame retardant chemicals in many types of furniture.


As part of our ongoing efforts to understand human exposure to these chemicals, and how the foam and furniture industries are using them, our laboratory is now offering FREE TESTING of foam from your household furniture.  Our testing will determine whether or not 7 common flame retardant chemicals are present in your furniture foam.

We are only testing polyurethane foam (see photo above), so please be sure to read the instructions on the project website carefully to be sure the foam in your furniture is polyurethane and not another type of filling like polyester.