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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Toxic Chinese Sofas

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In the latest scandal surrounding Chinese-made products, sofas from the country have been linked with causing severe allergic reactions. The anti-mold chemical, dimethyl fumarate, which is extremely toxic in even small amounts, is responsible for the severe burns, rashes, eczema, difficulty breathing, blood poisoning, and even skin cancer to people coming in contact with the sofas. Moreover, the sofas are also believed to be the cause of at least two deaths. The couches were mainly sold across Europe and are blamed for causing reactions to thousands of people, many of them small children. Dimethyl fumarate, or DMF, is a white powder used by some Chinese manufacturers to keep products free of mold while being stored in hot, humid places. Although DMF does not come in contact directly with the furniture, when it becomes hot, the DMF evaporates into the air, and is soaked up into the leather of the sofa. When body heat comes in contact with the leather, the body absorbs the DMF, leading to severe reactions.

In response, thousands of harmed individuals have filed suit against the retailers. According to the BBC News, this is already "the largest group consumer compensation claim ever seen in British courts." Additionally, after discovering the dangers of DMF, the European Union has plans for a new directive starting May 1, 2009 to require retailers to recall from sale any goods containing the chemical and to prevent future goods with the chemical from hitting stores. In support of the new legislation, EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner, Meglena Kuneva stated, "We are absolutely certain that the minor quantities of this product DMF in leather sofas or shoes could cause a terrible allergy and even death. It is very, very, serious, we will not compromise on safety."