Dozens of furniture makers settle over chemicals

by Stephanie Lee, San Francisco Chronicle

More than 30 furniture companies, including Ikea, J.C. Penney and Kmart, have agreed to settle for a total of $2.3 million in civil penalties after a Berkeley watchdog group alleged they sold furniture with high amounts of flame retardants in violation of California’s Proposition 65.

The Chanler Group, a law firm that represents individuals suing businesses over Prop. 65, claimed that the 35 companies had been selling upholstered chairs, car seats and other foam-padded products in California without disclosing to consumers that they contained flame retardants in amounts that violated the state’s consumer-safety law.

“We’re very proud of our clients’ work,” said Cliff Chanler, founder of the Chanler Group, in a statement. “What they’ve done today is going to go a long way toward industry reform to remove these harmful chemicals from our homes and our bodies.”

Prop. 65 requires the state to keep a running list of carcinogens and reproductive toxicants. It also requires manufacturers to publish warnings when a product contains more than a certain amount of a hazardous chemical on the list.

The plaintiffs claimed that companies sold items laced with flame retardants known as TDCPP or TCEP, which the state considers to be cancer-causing, without warnings. Many of the settlements were reached in Alameda County Superior Court this month and last month.

As part of the settlements, most of the defendants agreed to stop selling any furniture in California after March unless the items contain considerably lower amounts of flame retardants.

The Chanler Group said more than 100 companies are expected to reach settlements over similar alleged violations within the next month.