The Australian Furniture Association has called upon the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to include furniture within the scope of their study into the hazards posed by AZO dyes in clothing and bed linen to users.

Recent concerns about hazardous AZO dyes in clothing and bed linen now extend to textiles and leather in imported furniture. The ACCC has also been alerted to potential exposure to chemicals such as formaldehyde from bonded leather in imported furniture.

The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) recommended that the ACCC consider mechanisms to restrict the supply of textiles and leather articles, which may come into direct and prolonged contact with the human skin.

Calling for furniture to be included within the scope of the ACCC’s current activity in relation to the use of hazardous AZO dyes, Australian Furniture Association CEO, Patrizia Torelli says the association takes the potential exposure of families to these dangerous chemicals very seriously.

Imported furniture that may present a health risk through direct and prolonged contact with the skin include sofas, lounge suites, chairs and office/desk chairs, ottomans, day beds, bedheads/side foot rails, foot-ends, blanket boxes/footlockers, tall boys/chests of drawers, bedside tables, lowboys, and lingerie chests.

According to Ms Torelli, expert advice is required to reassure consumers their health is not at risk due to any possible exposure to these imported products. Accredited Australian suppliers have assured AFA that their products meet stringent testing and standards accreditation demanded of Australian made products.

The ACCC has established vigilance systems that collate data on potentially hazardous consumer goods and assess possible risks to consumers, including requiring suppliers to report if they came across any problem in the products they sell. The ACCC has in the past, identified and investigated various possible chemical hazards that may relate to furniture items such as brominated flame retardants, formaldehyde and dimethyl fumarate.

The Australian Furniture Association (AFA) encourages consumers to report to the ACCC if they have specific information or evidence of hazardous furniture being supplied in Australia.

The ACCC has recently released a paper seeking feedback from affected businesses and industry about any likely increase in costs if regulatory controls are introduced to address the issue of hazardous dyes in clothing, textiles and leather articles.

To educate consumers and industry leaders in this matter, AFA has engaged international expert, Mr. Stephan Pesch, Vice General Manager TUV Rheinland to speak on the topic at the upcoming National Furniture Industry Training Conference on 10-11 July in Melbourne.

Mr Pesch heads furniture laboratories in Shanghai and Guangzhou, leading a team that offers a range of research and development services such as Green Services for the furniture industry (FSC, legal timber) and furniture testing solutions for European, US and Australian customers.