Just had a long phone and email exchange with the smartest Crate and Barrel employee. (Her name is Meredith Anway, hope she does not mind being outed) I had called to follow up on a question about fireproofing agents used in upholstered furniture sold at Crate and Barrel Furniture. (Now you know what I do for fun in my free time!) The bottom line is that Crate and Barrel is doing a great job at moving beyond Brominated Fire retardants. A little back ground, Brominated fire retardants are use in many consumer products including plastics and the foam used in upholstered furniture. They are bio-accumulative which means the more you are exposed to, the higher the level is in your body. They are found in human breast milk in concentrations 10 times higher in North America than in Europe where they have been banned. They are found in the fatty tissue of animals through out the food chain, and even in animals in the arctic circle, even though most polar bears don't use sofas. At this point you are probably saying "Creeeeepy", in a freaked out voice. The good news is that I am not the only one who hates this chemical compound, now I have made you hate it too. And in addition to the two of us, Crate and Barrel has put some of their sourcing and buying power into creating products that are PDBE free. Here is a quote from Meredith's email "Upholstery are completely PBDE free. Our cushioning does not contain formaldehyde."
Does this mean that Crate and Barrel is my favorite furniture vendor? Well I still have a couple of issues: The fabrics might still contain formaldehyde or heavy metals. The frames are SFI certified, with some that are FSC certified. I think SFI is a weak wood certification scheme, although better than nothing. And finally, I am a bit paranoid about what they are now using as a fire retardant. But I am obsessively concerned with the environment, someone has to push the envelope!
However, I do think that they have hit a sweet spot that combines: quality for price, aesthetics, healthy component materials (if you are careful with fabric choices.) and more sustainable wood use practices. And they are willing to share the deets about what goes into their pieces. Cool.