Is your leather sofa making you sick?: Consumer Reports on Safety

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.

  1. Carcarius says:

    Do they export smallpox in their blankets, too?

  2. Thinker says:

    Shoot! Better check my new sofa!

  3. McCullough says:

    Get a noose!!!

  4. Jamie says:

    Oh for god’s sake. I’ve got a new leather sofa coming tomorrow, and thanks to you, Dvorak, I’m going to be worried every time I sit on the damn thing.

  5. Couch Potato says:

    Oh those crazy Chinese sofas! Do those leather sofas still come in N*gger Brown?

  6. Ah_Yea says:

    The Chinese wouldn’t even notice. Their air is so toxic you can hardly see a city block at midday, and their water is so bad it taste like metal.

    I think they’ve become immune.

  7. chuck says:

    The Chinese are geniuses! They’re exporting their toxic waste to us, one sachet at a time!

  8. Improbus says:

    I didn’t think we still have the money to import anything.

  9. Jägermeister says:

    #5 – Ah_Yea – Their air is so toxic you can hardly see a city block at midday.

    Been there, seen that… pretty sad. 😛 Smokers breathe the cleanest air.

  10. bobbo says:

    Who thinks leather chairs are EVER any good? Hot and sticky is summer, cold and slick in winter.

    What is the appeal of leather? Good for “looks” but totally dysfunctional.

    Anybody buying leather furniture is “a dedicated follower of fashion.”

  11. hhopper says:

    I used to buy mandarin orange slices at the supermarket. That is until I saw that they came from China.

  12. gquaglia says:

    Enough is enough, time to ban all goods coming from China.

  13. Mr. Fusion says:

    #12, gq,

    Then where are we going to get all our kung fu movies?

  14. Named says:


    Methinks you don’t understand how far down the Chinese rabbit hole you’ve gone…


    Good leather feels luxurious. Buttery, soft, supple. Shit leather is exactly like you describe.

  15. Hugh Ripper says:

    #12 Too many Americans (and others) getting rich off cheap ass Chinese made goods for that to happen. China is feeding off The West’s greed. Kind of ironic really.

    Gone are the days of quality over quantity.

  16. Uncle Patso says:

    Didn’t this story also appear about the time Leo burst his _first_ exercise ball? I’ve definitely read about toxic leather furniture before…

  17. Angel H. Wong says:

    Hmmm.. If anyone at the office arrives with an “X” shaped rash on his chest and back don’t ask 😛

  18. Adam Curry's Glorious Red Rooster says:

    Dammit John!

    I just got that sofa from Costco for my new pad after looking for wine. Those Easter Eggs are too good to pass up. Now, when the Pleidians and Alex Jones come over to party, they’ll ask where my sofa was made.

    Boy! Am I embarrassed!


  19. Glenn E. says:

    “Toxic from China!” should be what the topic reads. Cause it seems to be something new every month. And we have Walmart and Nixon, to thank for exposing us to goods from a country that can’t (or won’t) be bothered about product safety. Especially if it’s exported goods. Apparently the Chinese still want to kill off as many westerners as possible. And yet in spite of a lousy human rights record, and these often tainted goods. China gets “most favored nation” trading status for life. That’s another way of saying that most western nations’ government offcials are too spineless to ever make things difficult for China. Like imposing any trade restrictions or import inspections. People have to get sick first. Then they’ll look into it.

  20. Glenn E. says:

    I’m almost surprised that these leather imports don’t have Mad Cow disease. Why is it, that something is only considered good quality, unless the death of an animal is involved. No fake fur or synthetic leather goods please. I’m too stinking rich to put up with crap that wasn’t once alive (being sarcastic). Frankly I think leather chairs and couches are a stupid investment. Why not own a leather bed, while you’re at it? Cause you’d sweat too much lying in it. So why are leather couches better? People must like having damp clothes, who sit on one of these for more than a few minutes. To me, leather chairs are like Rolex watches. Too much money invested in something that could be cheaper and more practical, but gets bought for the brag factor.

  21. Rick Cain says:

    Aren’t all sofas now made in china? The last time priced an italian sofa it was $6200

  22. I cant believe this is still happening!

  23. Leather or not? says:

    Two days ago I received an expensive leather group I bought from Costco. The brand is “Leather Italia USA.” I thought all was safe, except after sitting on it a few hours I noticed my face getting very red and burning. I looked up this blog to see if there are problems with the tanning process (of course, leather tanning isn’t exactly “green”) that might cause health problems. After reading the blog, I looked UNDER the furniture to discover that Leather Italia USA is made in china! Boo to Costco for deceiving me.

  24. SofaSofa says:

    It’s unbelievable the number of reports and articles on the web regarding this – it seems to be in the news several times a year. So many companies import from China these days. It will be interesting to see if this continues into the future – many companies in the US won’t import from China anymore due to the lack of safety regulation.

  25. Cathy says:

    I purchased 2 leather swivel reclining glider chairs at Costco. I was so excited; they were just what I wanted. Upon unpacking, they had a very strong chemical smell. I kept the windows open during the day. In about 2-3 days I began to experience nausea, headache, muscle aches. I suspected it was due to the chairs when I remembered how in the past I’d get instant headaches whenever I’d get into my friend’s new car with leather seats. I hoped to off-gas the chairs since I liked them so much, so I placed them outside in a tent to protect and aerate them. I did this 3 times with the last time them being outside about one month. Sadly, each time after I brought them back in, on the 3rd day I felt all the same symptoms. Looks like I need to return them. Fortunately Costco is great about that, but it’s still sad. My other family members didn’t seem to have any effect except some didn’t like the smell.


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