pesticides on new furniture?

Asked September 10, 2018, 10:10 AM EDT

I recently purchased some new solid wood furniture and I'm concerned that they may be outgassing VOC's from pesticides. Is there any way to test the furniture for pesticide residues? Background: I'm someone who is sensitive to chemicals, especially pesticides because of some exposure when I was young. I sought out solid wood furniture to avoid out-gassing issues, however, this new furniture has a strong odor and is causing me problems with headaches, respiratory irritation, and "brain fogginess." At first I thought it was the lacquer on the furniture out-gassing. However, I did some research and discovered that the USDA requires imported furniture to be treated either by heat or pesticide fumigation. I also read that they may have switched from using methyl bromide for fumigation, since it is a greenhouse gas--and so may be using chlorpyrifos, which I am especially concerned about. I need to make a decision about returning the furniture soon. I'm hoping that the extension service may have some advice.

Washtenaw County Michigan

5 Responses

Hi, there,
Thank you for contacting Ask and Expert.
Because each manufacturer can handle things differently, I would recommend you contact the furniture manufacturer to learn more about their wood sterilization process. This process is essential in helping to fight the arrival of invasive exotic pests (like the Emerald ash borer) and it would be very hard to try to predict exactly which process the manufacturer uses.
I'm sorry I could not help more, but I would like to avoid providing improper answers/advice in such a delicate situation.
Thank you,

I have asked the manufacturer for information, but they haven't yet provided an answer. Is there any way to test furniture for pesticide residues?

I am not sure how to measure gasses in one's home. Is the furniture able to be moved? A quick google search yielded an article in the Atlantic that reports that Duke University may have a lab that can test for toxins in furniture stuffing - if it's sent to the lab.
Perhaps you could contact the Duke University lab directly to learn more about the process, and if it can be applied to wood?
I do hope they can help.
Thank you,

Would this test be any good? I think I could use this test the furniture itself (by wiping furniture with wet clean rag then squeezing rag to get a sample):

Do you know if tests like this are any good?

I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with the range of chemicals for which those tests are viable.
Thank you,