AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Couches comes in different sizes, colors and fabrics, and — according to a new study raising lots of eyebrows this week — a health risk may be hidden in the cushion.

Dr. Alisa Koval, an occupational and environmental physician with National Jewish Health in Aurora, told 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks those concerned about the issue need not be worried.

“Airing on the side of caution is always a good thing to do, but I don’t think there’s anything to be alarmed about,” Koval said.

The study looked at 102 couches in California and found that about 85 percent of them contained toxic flame retardant chemicals. California has a stringent flammability standard known as TB 117.

All residential furniture in California must withstand a 12 second exposure to a small open flame without igniting — leading manufactures to add more flame retardants to their products.

“Most of the health effect studies on these flame retardant chemicals have been done on animals,” Koval said.

More From Harmful flame retardants found in 84 percent of California couches

The few studies on humans indicate concerns on children, like low birth weight if a pregnant woman is sitting on a sofa or neurological developmental delays in children.

“These are a few studies, there are not a lot of them and I think we’re still sort of waiting for a lot of confirmatory information with regards to those health effects,” Koval said.

In the meantime, there are some simple things to do at home to potentially reduce any exposure that may occur:

If your couch has a tear or a rip, patch it. And then clean it frequently, because studies show toxins from the flame retardants are being released in the air.

“No one really knows how long or in what measurement that stuff is coming out of the furniture but it’s clearly ending up in house dust and in people’s bodies,” Koval said.

The main message though, as Koval wants to stress is “don’t panic about it.” More tests are needed.

RELATED: More Reports By 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks


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