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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


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