Published on : Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Recent concerns about hazardous AZO dyes in clothing and bed linen have now been extended to include 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. This can occur through contact with furniture in everyday use, both at home, school or at work.
The Australian Furniture Association has now called 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, ‘we take the potential exposure of families to unacceptable levels of these harmful chemicals, very seriously. ‘
There are varying levels of direct contact between the skin and upholstered surfaces of furniture, and in circumstances where body heat and moisture from sweat or saliva are also present, the risk of dermal absorption is higher. This is of particular concern for families with small children.
For example, in the case of Australian textile suppliers, they must ensure that their written certification acknowledges that a mill does not use any harmful substances in their weaving processes. This is not negotiable and is stringently audited. In the case of imported furniture, these check and balances simply don’t exist and therefore the consumer is exposed to potentially serious health risks.
Suppliers of consumer goods are required to notify the ACCC if they become aware of serious injuries associated with the products they supply. The ACCC has established vigilance systems which collate data on injuries and potentially hazardous consumer goods and assess possible risks to consumers. In the past the ACCC has identified and investigated various possible chemical hazards that may relate to furniture items such as; brominated flame retardants, formaldehyde and the potent skin sensitiser dimethyl fumarate.
The ACCC receives many complaints and allegations about the supply of consumer goods and the Australian Furniture Association (AFA) encourages consumers to contact the ACCC if they have specific information or evidence of hazardous furniture (whether imported or domestically produced) being supplied in Australia, particularly given the widespread daily use of furniture.
By way of general awareness, on 29 May 2014 the ACCC released a paper seeking specific information from affected business and industry about any likely increases in costs if regulation or quasi regulation were introduced to address the issue of hazardous dyes in clothing, textiles and leather articles.