Most sofas sold in the U.S. and by online retailers these days are brought in from China, although that won't be at all obvious to the customer, without close inquiry. The sellers will almost never openly acknowledge the Chinese origin, given the publicity about toxicity of many Chinese imports (it's not just pet food, toothpaste, etc.; details to follow). One clue as to whether a sofa comes from China: If the sellers don't disclose the national origin, and/or don't name the manufacturer, they are very likely trying to conceal something, such as the fact that it's an import from China.
There are specific health risks that have been documented in at least some materials imported from China, to which the customer is exposed by merely being in the vicinity of the product: (1) Off-gassing of cancer-causing and possibly nerve-damaging formaldehyde from Chinese plywood, at levels up to 30 times the level allowed by the U.S. EPA in American plywood (Woodshop News, Soundings Publications, Essex, CT, July, 2007, p. 48), and (2) off-gassing of hydrogen sulfide from Chinese drywall at about 100 times the average rate, causing respiratory problems and corrosion of electrical wiring and gas pipes, prompting two Federal agencies to state that the drywall should be removed from homes containing it (New York Times, April 3, 2010, p. B3). Note that plywood is the principal material used to make frames of most sofas sold these days. The above are just the toxic off-gasings that have been discovered and verified in Chinese imports; there's no way to know how many others have actually occurred and will occur in the future, contributing to disease without being discovered as the cause or part of the cause of disease.
But harm to others should be given at least as much weight as possible harm to your family members, regarding imports from Asia. James Corbett, professor of marine and earth studies at the University of Delaware, along with five colleagues co-authored a thorough and eye-opening study of pollution caused by shipping, "Mortality from Ship Emissions: A Global Assessment,", published in Environmental Science & Technology, 2007, vol. 41, pp. 85128518. (This is a journal of the Publications Division of the American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C.). These scientists reported that their results "...indicate that shipping-related particulate matter emissions are responsible for approximately 60,000 cardiopulmonary and lung cancer deaths annually...." This article can be read at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/es071686z. Other harm from ocean shipping includes inevitable oil spills and other pollutants released, including substantial numbers of harmful invasive species dumped into our waterways (New York Times, 9/04/07, p. A23),
In many cases, this harmful ocean shipping (which enables American shoppers to benefit from China's very low wages and low worker-safety and environmental regulation) actually takes bulky things twice half-way around the world before getting a sofa to the customer. Inquiry at a huge new Viirginia furniture store revealed that much of their furniture is made with materials that come from the USA , but they are shipped to China for manufacturing before being brought back as completed products. (Products of Ashley were mentioned specifically.)
By comparison, purchasing furniture that can be kept in use indefinitely by means of replacement covers and cushions, and that's made in America, is doing a good deed for our world and for its future occupants.
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A rear view of a Virginia model sectional, 95" x 95".
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