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Furniture Testing: Understanding PFAS, VOCs, Heavy Metals, and More

Furniture plays a significant role in indoor air quality, which is why furniture testing, namely for Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), is essential. In this article, we will take a closer look at what furniture chemistry testing is, why it is important, and how you can use it to protect yourself and your family.

Hazardous Chemicals in Furniture

Furniture is essential for our homes as it provides comfort and convenience. However, like any consumer product, there are concerns about the safety of the materials used in furniture. Hazardous chemicals have been found in furniture that can be harmful to human health, such as:

  • Formaldehyde, a common adhesive in furniture products, can cause skin irritation, respiratory problems, and other health issues.
  • Chromium, a metal used in the manufacturing of furniture, can cause skin rash and allergic contact dermatitis.
  • Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly found in upholstered furniture, carpeting, curtains, and more, have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, and developmental problems in children.
Furniture testing

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Furniture

PFAS are a class of synthetic chemicals commonly used in various products, including furniture. They have been linked to a range of health problems, including:

  • Cancer
  • Increased cholesterol levels.
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure in pregnant women.
  • Inhibition of the immune system.
  • Disruption of endocrine and metabolic function.
  • Disruption of reproductive and developmental processes.

PFAS are also persistent in the environment and can remain in the body for prolonged periods. Indeed, they are known as “forever chemicals”.

The Dangers of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Furniture

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that evaporate into the air at room temperature. They are found in many everyday products, including:

  • Paints
  • Adhesives
  • Furniture
  • Carpets
  • Cleaning products

Some VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness, respiratory problems, air pollution, and smog. Composite wood products like particleboard, plywood, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) often contain formaldehyde, a VOC that is a known carcinogen and causes respiratory issues.

Additionally, to reduce the risk of exposure to formaldehyde and other VOCs, it is important to choose products certified as low-emitting or that meet strict emissions standards.

 It is also a good idea to allow new items to off-gas in a well-ventilated area before using them in your home. Additionally, you can look for furniture made from solid wood, which tends to have lower levels of formaldehyde emissions compared to composite wood products.

Manufacture of Furniture before testing

Furniture Testing Against Hazardous Chemicals

The GreenGuard Environmental Institue, a subsidiary of Underwriters Laboratories (UL), provides certification for products that meet its rigorous standards for low emissions of VOCs, formaldehyde, and other chemicals. Furniture manufacturers can have their products evaluated for compliance with the GreenGuard standard, and products that meet the criteria are eligible for certification.

While certifications like GreenGuard are useful, they are not a guarantee of safety. The GreenGuard standard is a set of guidelines for assessing the levels of certain chemicals in building products, but it does not cover every chemical of concern.

Other Applicable Standards and Regulations

In addition to the Greenguard standard, furniture manufacturers must comply with several other standards and regulations. For instance:



Examples of Regulated Chemicals

Where used in Furniture

Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

Among other things, now regulates the use of certain chemicals in products sold in the US

PIP (3:1), Formaldehyde, phthalates, flame retardants

  • Electronic casings
  • Composite wood products
  • Mattresses

Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)

Requires companies to register and provide information about chemicals used in products sold in the EU

Bisphenol A (BPA)

Production of plastics used in furniture

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP)

Aims to eliminate or reduce the use of highly toxic chemicals in products sold in the EU

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)

Flame retardants

California Proposition 65 (Prop.65)

Requires businesses to provide a warning label for products that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm in California



Lead is used in the construction of furniture. Namely for:

  • Drawers
  • Knobs
  • Hinges
  • Framing

Formaldehyde is made of composite wood products such as:

  • Medium-density fiberboard (MDF)
  • Particleboard
  • Plywood

California Air Resources Board (CARB)

Composite wood products sold or used in California


  • MDF
  • Particleboard
  • Plywood


Building materials and furniture

Formaldehyde, VOCs

All furniture used in LEED-certified buildings

Green Seal Standard

Furniture and furnishings

Formaldehyde, VOCs

  • Upholstered furniture
  • Carpets
  • Rugs

What is Furniture Testing?

Furniture chemistry testing examines the materials used in furniture to determine their impact on indoor air quality, human health, and the environment. This testing can detect the presence of harmful chemicals such as PFAS, VOCs, and formaldehyde, among others in products. By having a product tested in a laboratory, manufacturers and consumers can better understand the chemical composition and whether it poses any potential health risks.

Furthermore, furniture testing is performed in a laboratory setting using various analytical methods, including:

  • Gas chromatography (GC): A technique that separates VOCs and identifies the specific chemicals in a sample.
  • Mass spectrometry (MS): A method that analyzes the mass and structure of chemicals to determine their identity.
  • X-ray fluorescence (XRF): An analytical method that uses X-rays to identify the presence of certain elements in a sample, including heavy metals and other toxic substances.
  • Indoor air quality monitoring: This method involves collecting air samples from a room and analyzing them for VOCs, formaldehyde, and other pollutants.
  • Extraction and analysis of foam and other materials: This method involves physically removing a sample of foam or other materials from furniture and analyzing it for the presence of PFAS and other chemicals.
Repair of Furniture - testing
Oil testing laboratory

What is Furniture Testing?

Also, indoor air pollution is a growing concern, and furniture can be a major contributor. Many furniture materials, particularly those made with synthetic materials, emit harmful chemicals into the air. These chemicals can cause a range of health problems, from respiratory issues to headaches, eye irritation, and even cancer. Furniture chemistry testing helps you avoid furniture that could be dangerous to your health.

ISO 14001 Symbol

Why Use an ISO 17025:2017 Certified Laboratory for Furniture Testing?

ISO 17025:2017 is a globally recognized standard for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories. Working with an ISO 17025:2017 certified laboratory provides the following:

  • Impartiality and Competence: The laboratory commits to impartiality and quality.
  • Accurate and Reliable Results: The laboratory has the necessary technical expertise and resources to produce accurate and reliable results.

How to Use Furniture Testing to Protect Yourself and Your Family

To ensure your products are safe, you can request furniture testing to evaluate the materials used. Moreover, some other things you can do to protect yourself and your family include:

  • Choose natural materials: Natural materials such as wood, cotton, and bamboo emit fewer VOCs and other harmful chemicals.
  • Look for certifications such as GreenGuard: For example, GreenGuard is a third-party organization that certifies furniture that meets strict standards for indoor air quality. When shopping, look for pieces that have been GreenGuard certified.
  • Use air purifiers: Air purifiers can help remove harmful chemicals from the air in your home.
  • Avoid chemical treatments: Some furniture treatments, such as stain-resistant sprays, emit harmful chemicals into the air. Look for pieces that have not been treated with these chemicals.
  • Regularly air out your home: Ventilate your home regularly to allow fresh air to circulate and reduce the concentration of harmful chemicals.
Furniture and electronics example

Furniture testing is an essential tool for protecting your indoor air quality and your health. By examining the materials used, you can identify harmful chemicals that could be a health risk. Use the tips outlined above to choose safer items for you and your family and improve the air quality in your home.

Which testing should you undertake? Let Enviropass assist you and book your free consultation!