Is your leather sofa making you sick?

Is your leather sofa making you sick?

Consumer Reports News: May 19, 2009 12:48 PM

We’ve been following some interesting safety news from across the pond. The BBC News in the United Kingdom has been reporting that more than 1,600 people have suffered skin rashes and chemical burns from their new Chinese-made leather sofas. Reports say that one person has died.

After investigation, it was found that the couches were packed with sachets containing dimethly fumarate (DMF), an antifungal agent intended to prevent the leather from getting moldy during storage and shipment from China. The chemical evaporates, penetrating the leather and can transfer to clothing and skin. Even small levels of exposure can cause serious skin sores, blisters, rashes and eye irritation. And some victims have reported that their problems have persisted long after the couch has been put on the curb.

On May 1, the European Union and British governments ordered a recall of all products containing dimethyl fumarate.

We wonder if the problem has worked its way into the North American market since much of our furniture is imported from China. I asked the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission if they had received consumer complaints about leather sofas, but they were not aware of any problems.

Unless, that is, you count "Uh, Oh Canada" a recent episode of "King of the Hill" in which a guest complains of getting a rash from sitting on Hank's and Peggy's new sofa. "Probably the petrochemicals in the synthetic fiber," the guest scoffs.

But from what we're hearing, this is nothing to scoff at. If you've experienced any skin rashes that you suspect may be related to new leather furniture, let us know by commenting on this blog. You should also file a complaint with the manufacturer and the CPSC.—Don Mays

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Latest From Consumer Reports

Laundry & cleaning
Best washing machines that cost $800 or lessVideo These workhorses of the laundry room won't break your budget.
Special report: How safe is your ground beef?Video Recalls of bacteria-tainted ground beef are all too frequent.
Hidden helpers in your phone are at your fingertips Smartphone functionality has zoomed way beyond driving directions.
Model S P85D
Tesla Model S P85D breaks our Ratings systemVideo This brutally quick luxury electric car earned a perfect road-test score.
Why you shouldn't buy drugs from sites outside of the U.S. There are safer ways to save on your prescription drug costs.
Consumer Reports
Interested in joining the Consumer Reports Board? Get details on applying for service on our board of directors.


and safety with
subscribers and fans

Follow us on:


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more