How bad is Teflon?
March 17, 2011 9:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to make green choices in my house but I fell in love with this fabric. Is the Teflon finish something to really be concerned about? I will be using the fabric on dining room chairs that will not be used often.
posted by TrickyLib to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If teflon is exposed to an open flame, there will be partial decomposition into its constituent elements of carbon and fluorine, which is very dangerous because fluorine is enormously toxic as well as corrosive. So I would not want to have a teflon coated fabric if my house was on fire. Other than that, it is quite safe. The advantage is that it is stain resistant.
posted by grizzled at 10:44 AM on March 17, 2011

Based on five minutes of research ('what problems might there be?', not having heard of these concerns before) it seems that there can be problems caused by excessive heating of teflon-coated items, or issues during production. So don't set fire to your chairs, I would also recommend not letting children or pets try and eat them, and what's in your house should be safe. If you have concerns about the health & safety issues of the people producing the fabric, yeah, go with something else but remember that fabric dyeing in general is fairly nasty and polluting, it's not specifically the teflon that would be a problem.

The stain resistance provided by the teflon coating may well make your chair seats last longer than another fabric, thereby letting you keep them longer and using less resources over time, which usually works out to be the greener choice.
posted by Lebannen at 10:49 AM on March 17, 2011

Regarding flammability: Though this fabric contains teflon, the website specifies it is for upholstery use. It's usually the case for markets like sleepwear, children's wear, and interiors that the fabrics would have a flame-retardant finish. You can try contacting the company/mill to find out if this is the case for their products.

Regarding green fabrics: Few fibres are environmentally friendly. I suppose things like organic cotton might be, but cotton growing requires an incredible amount of water and cannot really be considered sustainable. Fabrics made with bamboo are also misleading because the bamboo is used to make rayon in a chemically-heavy process.

I believe hemp is one of the greenest fibres, but is difficult to come by in the United States due to growing restrictions. Viscose and polyester, being artificial fibres, are pretty bad for the environment. They can be produced through a green process, but those have trademarked names IIRC.
Anyway, adding to what other users have said, it's the finishing/treatment process that uses nasty chemicals, so whatever fabric you go with will net out the same. The teflon at least will last longer and require less laundering.
posted by droolshark at 4:53 PM on March 18, 2011

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