4 Sky blue RBM Noor chairs at a table with science experiments using glass tubes and colourful liquids

The truth about chemicals in furniture

In a report published by Norway’s Environmental Directorate, 40% of sports and leisure products that were recently tested contained harmful substances and materials which could directly affect people’s health. This isn't the first time this has happened, and it's not just in sports equipment, but everything from kids toys to furniture. So what products can we trust?

It seems quite incredible that in the 21st century we can still purchase products which unbeknown to us are harmful. Cigarettes, alcohol, even movies come with warnings if they are potentially detrimental, but many everyday items do not. Sometimes it’s through a lack of care from governing bodies, and sometimes it’s through a simple lack of understanding from consumers.


A 2017 report in Norway found that a fifth of the products tested were withdrawn from the market because their environmental toxicity levels were above the permitted limit value. Mathieu Veulemans, section head of the Environmental Directorate said “It’s worrying that popular sports and leisure products contain too many environmental toxins…In addition to being unhealthy, these substances break down slowly and are harmful to the environment. “

Examples of toxic material products including an orange camping mat goalkeeper gloves a green satchel and an orange wheeled toy

Some of the products which contained hazardous substances not allowed in Norway. Photo: Elisabet Molander, Environmental Directorate

It’s not just in Norway that these issues have been found. In 2008, a similar report highlighted in the Toronto Star found dangerously high levels of toxic materials in children’s toys, with one item containing 27% lead, 445 times(!) the legal limit on lead in jewellery marketed to children.


EU Law on Chemicals in Products

uaf-reach.jpgHaving said this there are strict controls on what any products made in and for the EU contain. There are currently 205 Candidate List substances (as of June 2020), many of which still have a variety of consumer product applications. They include anthracene oil, acrylamide, and various lead, cadmium and cobalt compounds.


Producers of articles containing candidate list substances must notify the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) of their presence, if they are present above a concentration of 0.1% weight by weight (“w/w”) and if certain other criteria are met. They must also provide safe-use information to the recipient and (upon request) to consumers. If they are not (like the examples of the products from above) they are taken off the shelves and destroyed.


Furniture is not immune to these chemicals. Various toxic chemicals have and continue to be used around the world during the manufacturing and finishing of furniture products. Below you can read an overview of some of the more popular chemicals to look out for and the potential health implications involved.

A text image highlighting harmful chemicals in furniture

How to avoid chemicals in furniture

Luckily, many furniture manufacturers make it easy for consumers to avoid these chemicals if they desire. There are various marks of quality you can look out for which indicate that no chemicals were used during manufacture, as well as highlighting the overall impact of the process on the environment.


At Flokk we are proud of our commitment to sustainability, and our products pass some of the strictest tests when it comes to the impact on the environment and health. It is our aim to design furniture without using non-toxic materials.


Read - How to choose environmentally friendly furniture



Troldtekt_EPD_Norway_Logo.pngGREENGUARD Certification

The GREENGUARD Certification Program (formerly known as GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certification) certifies that a product meets strict chemical emissions limits, meaning that there are little to no VOC’s released from your product. This is a well-respected and global standard, and a simple mark to look out for on any item of furniture.


The innovative stitching and assembly techniques removed the need for toxic glues and with products manufactured without dangerous chemicals, the most important collections from HÅG, RH, Giroflex and RBM have been GREENGUARD approved and certified. Flokk has the goal to expand the certification scope to all our brands.




OEKO-TEX® measures the chemical content of textiles and fabrics. The “Standard 100” certificate is a worldwide consistent, independent testing and certification system for raw, semi-finished, and finished textile products at all processing levels, as well as accessory materials used.


It has strict test criteria and limits values for significant amounts of harmful chemicals, some banned and even those not legally regulated, ensuring the consumer is safe from harm. It has taken on a pioneering role for many years in the realms of safe and environmentally friendly textile production. If your furniture has textiles, watch out for this mark.


Flokk only source fabrics and textiles which have received the Standard 100 certification, ensuring that no chemicals make it into the upholstery.



NordicSwanLabelOriginalVersionNordic Swan Ecolabel

The Nordic Swan Ecolabel for furniture is awarded to products that meet strict environmental, quality and health requirements. The use of harmful chemicals is strictly regulated and a high content of recycled materials is required. In 2010, HÅG Capisco became the first office chair in the world to qualify for the Nordic Swan Ecolabel.



usm-cradle-to-cradle.jpg.1024x1024_q90Cradle To CradleTM

The Cradle to Cradle Certified program is an eco-label that evaluates several properties and assesses a product's safety to humans and the environment and design for future life cycles. Designers and manufacturers are guided through a continual improvement process that looks at a product through five quality categories - material health, material re-utilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness.


You can find which certificates Flokk’s products are bearing on our product pages.


Learn more about Flokk's sustainability practices

white silhouettes of 6 office chairs with dark green baackground
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