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My foam exchange story: How I saved big bucks without passing the buck

July 28, 2014

I bought my sofa in California, “home” of the TB117 standard. I know 75-94% of sofas tested contain flame retardants. And clear as day, sewn onto my couch was a TB117 label. You would think I’d take the hint, but I was convinced that my sofa was okay. My sofa was nice! Then I had it tested and found out my foam wasn’t so nice.

The foam contained TDCPP (chlorinated Tris) and TPP (triphenyl phosphate). High levels of TDCPP and TPP may be associated with reduced sperm counts and altered levels of hormones related to fertility and thyroid function. Chlorinated Tris is a mutagen (it changes DNA) and probable human carcinogen.

In a nutshell, it had to go. But I liked my sofa and replacing it would be costly. Also, buying a new sofa would get the cushions out of my house, but I’d be passing the problem onto someone else (likely users of second-hand furniture are low-income families, and college students) or I’d be dumping my toxic couch in a landfill where the chemicals could enter water and the food supply.

So, I chose a better solution, the Safer Sofa Foam Exchange.

I brought my cushions to Foam Order in San Francisco. They helped me select foam without added flame retardants. They traced the shape of my cushions so the new foam would fit my existing covers perfectly and recommended a double layer of Dacron wrap to keep the rounded look I had and liked. I was out of the store in under thirty minutes. At $163, it was a huge saving compared with buying a new sofa. A week later, my new cushions were ready. I brought in my old, unwanted cushions and Foam Order swapped them out. Voila!

Instead of sending the old foam to a landfill Foam Order is storing it for research to develop a responsible disposal solution. They’re also donating 10% of the sale to support that research.

The whole process was easy, affordable and responsible, and now I can be a couch potato without the worry.

The Green Science Policy Institute is currently seeking funding for this project. Please consider contributing a gift toward this important work.

Local foam and upholstery professionals participating in the Safer Sofa Foam Exchange program:

Customers in other regions:

The Safer Sofa Foam Exchange has not established official partnerships beyond the Bay just yet, but almost any custom foam or upholstery shop will offer foam replacement services for your couch. We recommend calling shops in your area and asking whether they carry flame retardant-free foam for this purpose. If you find one, please share their name with [email protected] to spread the word.