Avoiding Flame Retardants in the Home

Flame Retardants in Mattresses and Furniture

Most couches and mattresses in North America will likely have flame retardants (FRs) unless stated otherwise. Espeically those containing polyurathane foam. (Same goes for polyurathane pillows including nursing pillows).

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE)

Dr Mercola says, be especially careful with polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses and pillows, as these are most likely to contain PBDEs. If you have any of these in your home, inspect them carefully and replace ripped covers and/or any foam that appears to be breaking down. Also avoid reupholstering furniture by yourself as the reupholstering process increases your risk of exposure.” (source).

A Common Question: Does IKEA use Flame Retardants?

IKEA (US) states “unfortunately we do not currently offer upholstery without flame retardants as the foam in the cushions is what is treated.” They claim to use unspecified organic phosphorous/nitrogen-containing compounds, however, one blogger who sent in a sample to Duke University found that the sofa still contained the supposedly phased out chloronated tris.

chlorinated tris (TCPP)
For their mattresses they state on their Facebook Page that the  SULTAN line is “all natural”, and in an email confirm that the “SULTAN HEGGEDAL is able to meet the necessary standards without the use of flame retardants.” (sources: onetwo and three

As for IKEA Canada: “with foam furniture… reps say unspecified organic phosphorous/nitrogen-containing compounds or melamine or chloro-phosphorous compounds are used. ” (source)
With their mattresses things are a little better, in an email from IKEA in 2014 they stated  “mattresses currently sold in IKEA stores in Canada have not been treated with flame retardants.” (personal correspondence with IKEA).

Sultan Heggedal via http://www.ikea.com

In both Canada and the US it seems that the SULTAN HEGGEDAL (made of 85% natural latex with no polyurethane or FRs) is a fairly safe mattress. (The only chemical component is 15% synthetic latex). As for their upostered furniture, I would stay far far away.

See my post on furniture and mattresses to source natural versions that do not offgass any harmful chemicals. There are 100% natural options for mattresses that can come fairly close to the IKEA price point on the sultan line ($850).


There are many companies making organic or natural fibre carpets, such as wool, and for rugs, cotton, rattan or jute. Carpets should explicitly state that they use all natural materials. Conventional types from big box stores contain a long list of chemicals including flame retardants.

Be careful when removing old carpets as the FRs can become scattered as dust. Do not do this yourself if you are sensitive, and have all the dust cleared before reentereing the room.


It’s hard to know which curtains contains FRs as they will not be labeled. I would assume that curtains from hardware stores and conventional stores do contain toxins unless you check with the manufacturer. I would go with an organic brand like these hemp fabric curtains

Flame Retardants in Insulation

Ridged Foam insulation 

HBCD is typically used in polystyrenes, in concentrations of up to 1% in EPS, and up to 5% in XPS. TCPP is typically used in polyisocyanurate foams (up to 10%).  (source )

There is no EPS or XPS insulation without flame retardants on the market currently. (source)

The only ridged foam insulation I know of without flame retardants is JM polyiso foam backed with foil.

Spray Foam Insulation

Almost all spray foams made in the US contain FRs according to Treehugger, usually TCPP (source)

Natural insulation options in my post on Insulation.

Retardants in Electronics

Apple phased out brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in 2008 but uses “safer” unspecified flame retading chemicals. Motorola is BFR-free and Sony has phased it out of some products (source). How much these can leach out of electronics is not clear. With furniture it is when the particles become dust bound that they become the biggest problem.

Cleaning up Flame Retardants in the Home

IQAir filter

Flame retardants become mobile in dust as opposed to gas. So keeping a dust free home is of utmost importance. David Suzuki says, household dust is now recognized as one of the most significant sources of childhood exposure to toxic substances.”

HEPA Vacuum is the best way to deal with the dust if you have conventional furniture, carpets and curtains. 

Dust also contains phthalates, metals like lead, mercury and arsenic, and pesticides (Suzuki). The best way to remove particulates and (and VOCs, and mould) from the air is a HEPA air filter. The best one of the market is the IQAir. A decent one that is a more affordable is this Honeywell.


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