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Most couches potentially toxic, study says

November 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
More than one-third of all couches in the United States may contain potential toxins that can be dangerous for humans to inhale as furniture foam turns into house dust, according to a new study.

The study jointly conducted by the University of California at Berkeley and Duke University was published Wednesday in Environmental Science & Technology. It found that 85 percent of the 102 couches tested were treated with some kind of untested or potentially toxic flame retardant. It found that 41 percent had foam with chlorinated tris, (or TDCPP), a probable human carcinogen removed from baby pajamas in 1977. Another 17 percent contained pentaBDE, which has been banned around the world.

"You won't see it, you won't smell it and you won't taste it," said Martha Arguello of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Arguello was not involved in the study.

The study says flame retardants are linked to hormone disruption, cancer and neurological toxicity in hundreds of animal studies and several human ones.

The American Chemistry Council disputes the findings. In a statement, it said, "There is no data in this study that indicates that the levels of flame retardants found would cause any human health problems."

If you're planning on buying new furniture, it's best to avoid polyurethane foam. Instead, buy furniture with polyester, down, wool or cotton.

To see if your furniture or cushions contain the fire retardant, check the label. It will say "technical bulletin 117" if it does.

ABC News contributed to this report.