Protesters target Pier 1 over flame retardants in furniture

Members of the Texas Campaign for the Environment protested outside Pier 1 Imports headquarters on Tuesday.
Members of the Texas Campaign for the Environment protested outside Pier 1 Imports headquarters on Tuesday. Star-Telegram

Did you know your couch could be toxic?

Apparently so, according to the Texas Campaign for the Environment, which has been pressuring retailers including Pier 1 Imports to stop selling furniture manufactured with flame retardant chemicals it claims do more harm than good.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen protesters demonstrated (with a couch) outside Pier 1’s Fort Worth headquarters, calling on the retailer to stop selling furniture with flame retardants. They also delivered more than 300 letters from consumers solicited in a door-to-door campaign.

Flame retardant chemicals have been used in furniture for decades since they were first required in California, the group says. But in recent years, scientific evidence has suggested that the chemicals not only fail to effectively protect against fires, but also release chemicals into dust. So advocacy groups have been pushing retailers including Macy’s, Ikea and others to respond.

“Toxic flame retardants threaten our reproductive and nervous systems,” said Corey Troiani, a member of the advocacy group.

Troiani said that just a couple of hours after the lunchtime demonstration, the environmental group’s executive director received a call from an executive at Pier 1, who told them that the company had already contacted suppliers and would phase out flame retardant chemicals from its furniture by Jan. 1.

“We see this as a victory and a direct result of the grassroots organizing and public pressure on the company to stop selling flame retardant chemicals.” he said.

Pier 1 contends that it began phasing out flame retardants in newly manufactured furniture about a year ago.

“Since early 2015, Pier 1 customers have been able to order flame retardant free upholstered furniture,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Engstrand. “For all upholstered furniture manufactured after January 1, 2015, Pier 1 Imports requires that the labeling indicates that the product contains no added flame retardants.”

Despite that, Troiani said the company’s response this week marked the first time his group had received a commitment. And he urged consumers to check furniture labels. “TCE has verified that Pier 1 Imports still sells products containing flame retardant chemicals,” he said.

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko