Tuesday, January 18, 2022 – 10:00 p.m.
[Note: This is NOT a dis on “Words With Friends” — just a fun play on words!]
I looked up the game, “Words With Friends” online – and found the description particularly appropriate: “Words With Friends is easy to learn, can help strengthen vocabulary knowledge, and will provide hours of mentally stimulating entertainment for all ages.” CertiPUR-US needs some help in strengthening their vocabulary knowledge – and I believe they could obviously use some mental stimulation…so it seemed like a good analogy! And with that, here we go!… 🙂
CertiPUR-US (in their letter to me Tuesday morning) stated that NOWHERE do they misrepresent their product as being “Lead-free” (insinuating and essentially stating that they expect their foam to have SOME Lead, within certain tolerances — just not as much Lead as I found using XRF testing [levels of Lead which Medley Home independently confirmed with the follow-up lab / digestive testing they did after I reported my findings of Lead in their CertiPUR-US-certified foam seat cushions].)
This post is ONLY about language…
This post is ONLY to call CertiPUR out on their greenwashing, mansplaining, and Machiavellian industrial crypto-nugatory linguistic bullshit.
Once I have edited this, I will send the link along to Michael at CertiPUR-US, so he can run it by his lawyers — and maybe his lawyers will advise him to STOP trying to BULLY an environmental activist (me), and a small company trying to do right (Medley), and instead take some time (introspection time?) to examine how their current operational model has engendered the (predictable; preventable) breakdown(s) we are all now dealing with here.
Ideally / hopefully the CertiPUR-US team will take this opportunity to determine what they might do by way of re-examining and restructuring the specifics of their certification program so that one of the following two things comes to pass:
- their certification methodologies and standards are changed to better align with their public statements (including the public perception of their public statements) OR
- their public statements are changed so they better align with their current practices and standards.
Here’s one proposed example:
As an example of option #2 above, CertiPUR-US could change the language on their website to clearly state something along these lines
“We do not guarantee CertiPUR-US certified products to be Lead-free. Our certified products may test positive for trace levels of Lead (using XRF and laboratory testing), even though Lead is not allowed to be an added ingredient in CertiPUR-US certified foams. In the event that any CertiPUR-US certified foam manufacturer produces foam that tests positive at 90 ppm (or above) we promise to temporarily revoke their certification until the source of Lead contamination can be determined.”
Tamara, why are you writing this now?
I want to state that this post came out of an inquiry tonight – an inquiry into trying to figure out exactly what CertiPUR-US may have said [and what they may not have said] that would lead (mislead?) it’s furniture manufacturer customers – like Medley and Nugget (as well as end-user customers – the people who buy this furniture) to understand and expect these certified products would be Lead-free — especially since CertiPUR emphatically insist they “have never claimed their products are Lead-free”.
To this end, I engaged in the inquiry of searching the Internet (including searching the CertiPUR website, and searching furniture manufacturers’ websites) to find language that might have given this (allegedly) “false” impression (the impression that the CertiPUR foams are Lead-free.)
What I found was VERY interesting!
Through this search, I found marketing language on the CertiPUR-US website tonight that sure reads/ looks/ sounds like it is designed to foster the impression that their foam is free of toxic/cancer-causing/harmful chemicals (which would obviously logically include Lead!) …. and here it is (analysis below the image):
First off – I must say that I JUST LOVE the IRONY that the CertiPUR-US headline for this page (image above) is “Chemical-free Claims: Don’t Be Duped”
The sentence I underlined in pink and highlighted with pointy pink arrows reads as follows:
A foam that has been certified through the CertiPUR-US program is not chemical free, But it is free of chemicals that have been determined by the GHS (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals) to fall into its category 1A or 1B, which are chemicals that may cause cancer, may cause genetic defects or damage fertility or the unborn child.
Unfortunately this needs to be unpacked a bit, BECAUSE CertiPUR-US has NOT been rigorous in this above statement. If you set aside the arcane industrial technical reference, the sentence reads like this:
A foam that has been certified through the CertiPUR-US program is not chemical free, But it is free of chemicals that may cause cancer, may cause genetic defects or damage fertility or the unborn child.
The most important point here is how those words substantively compare/correlate to the following ones (please check out the image and continue reading for a further explanation) …this is a screenshot from the NIH National Library of Medicine, which states that Lead “May damage fertility; May damage the unborn child [Danger Reproductive toxicity]; May cause harm to breast-fed children [Reproductive toxicity, effects on or via lactation], etc.
So a quick read of the CertiPUR statement is that their foam IS FREE OF chemicals that cause the kind of harm that Lead causes, so deductive reasoning can be brought to bear in the public (or furniture manufacturers) understanding (based on CertiPUR’s language) that their products could reasonably be assumed/expected to be free of Lead (= “Lead-free”) – based on the above screenshots.
HOWEVER – it’s not so simple – so again, let’s try to clear up the greenwashing mud a bit…
I did a bunch of digging into this part of the statement: “free of chemicals that have been determined by the GHS (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals) to fall into its category 1A or 1B”
I could not readily find a list of chemicals for category 1A or 1B (even within the GHS source document – which is linked below) …however, I did find this (on a metals site, image below) — which describes the GHS industrial Warning label for Lead, and lists Lead’s (universally-recognized) “Carcinogenicity”; “Reproductive toxicity”; yada, yada – and categorizes it as a GHS “Category 2” substance [“GHS Classification (29 CFR 1910.1200)”] — an unequivocal HEALTH HAZARD!
So what does this mean?
CertiPUR has clear (clear as mud) language that ANYONE (any lay person without intimate familiarity of GHS classifications) would interpret to mean that their product is Lead-free – but they are hiding (perhaps accidentally? or maybe 100% intentionally?!) behind only calling out Category 1A or 1B substances – when Lead may or may not technically fall into category 1 (I still need to find confirmation of that) but definitely has the specific medical and health impacts of the category 1A or 1B substances that they are asserting are not found in their products. Here’s a link to the full (most recent) GHS summary from the United Nations (for anyone that wants to do a deep dive, its 565 pages and is available as a downloadable PDF!)
So yeah – Lead-free…Not.
To reiterate what the responsible corporate course of action is that needs to happen:
- CertiPUR needs to make their language more clear (evidenced by the fact that all of the HUNDREDS of customers who have bought these products and who I have spoken to or messaged with in the past several weeks DO assume the products are Lead-free, based on the language that CertiPUR uses). This is not a “misunderstanding” held by one or two people.
- Alternately, CertiPUR needs to change their certification standards to ensure that the product matches the understanding created by the language they have already chosen to use – ensuring all of their certified foams actually ARE Lead-free.
The second option above MAY sound daunting, but I don’t think it is. I have tested probably hundreds of pieces of furniture that have foam in the cushions and other components. This was the VERY FIRST TIME I had tested MODERN foam furniture cushions that were positive for even a TRACE amount of Lead. I think what happened here was an anomaly — that would/should have been caught with a more comprehensive program of oversight and testing (than once or twice a year plus whatever periodic spot-checking missed this low-level, but quite easily-detectable contamination, and CertiPUR would benefit (and look like “the good guy” in the end) if they could focus their attention on stepping up the rigor (& frequency?) of their testing, so this sort of anomaly doesn’t happen again.
Lead Safe Mama, LLC