Cancer-risk warning found on new bed in Al Ain

Shocked customer calls on store to tell buyers of the health danger, but bosses say the safety regulations do not apply in most countries.

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ABU DHABI // A furniture store may face charges after selling a bed that could have carcinogenic chemicals in its construction.

AM, an Emirati who bought a bed from the store's branch in Al Ain, found a sticker on it warning that it might contain a chemical that can cause cancer or birth defects.

"I bought my bedroom set from this particular store because it's famous and well known," he said.

"I paid Dh28,000 for the complete set. As they were assembling the bed, I started taking measurements for the mattress. That's when I noticed the small sticker that said that the bed contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer."

He told the workers to immediately pack up the set and demanded his money back.

"It's not about the money," he said. "But how can any store sell a bed that can cause cancer and not inform the buyer?

"The store didn't even inform me and I accidentally found out. If I hadn't been taking measurements at the time, I would never have seen the sign."

AM said he was concerned about the safety of other consumers. "Now I know and every buyer should ask before buying furniture, if it is safe or not," he said.

The store's lawyer said it was not obliged to inform the customer or even have a warning on the bed.

"We could have removed the sticker," he said. "These are regulations by the state of California only to have the sticker on. It is not followed by any other country, even other states in the United States.

"These standards are not applied in the UAE and do not prevent us from purchasing or selling the bed. The sticker also doesn't prevent Californians themselves from buying the bed and does not oblige retailers to not sell the bed.

"In California you can sell these beds because it is just a regulation to put on the sticker. If it was harmful, they would not be allowed to sell it or export it."

He said the sticker warns of the likelihood that the product "might" have chemicals that cause cancer but there was no concrete evidence.

He said the store had left the sticker on the bed in an effort to be transparent and honest with its customers.

"Here in the UAE there are no control or safety standards on furniture but we are willing to work with Health Ministry and Consumer Affairs to ensure that products are safe for consumers," he said.

"The bed was only a small part of our collection that was brought in from California and the Emirati who purchased the bed was reimbursed."

Dr Hashim Saeed Al Neaimi, the manager of the consumer protection department at the Ministry of Economy, said there were safety standards in place to ensure that all items sold were safe.

"Samples of the bed will be tested and if found unsafe, confiscated and the retailer will face charges," he added. "We have already contacted both parties and an investigation is under way."

AM believes that the store should contact all customers who bought one of the beds and inform them of the risk.

"They should call everyone who bought from this batch of beds, and tell them about the risk and give them their money back if they wish," he said.

California's Proposition 65, also called the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, was enacted in November 1986. It was intended to protect Californians from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

The legislation requires that consumers be told about exposure to chemicals that are "known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity".

By law, Californians must be warned about any chemical on the ever-changing Prop 65 list, unless the level of exposure would pose no significant cancer risk.