It is understood that the chemical DMF (dimethyl fumarate) is the cause of the sofa rash (also called sofa burn or toxic sofa syndrome) condition. This chemical was used in the production of a number of leather sofas made in China and shipped to the UK. DMF was used in the production process to prevent the sofas from becoming mouldy via transportation and everyday use, however, the DMF has been proved to be the cause of the skin irritation suffered by owners of the affected “toxic sofas”.
When the DMF substance is exposed to heat it can emit a toxic gas which can pass through the sofa material and the clothing of anyone seated on the sofa causing severe skin irritation, rashes, burns and allergic reactions.
According to Solicitor Richard Langton, “When people are sensitised to the chemical it causes a really nasty rash – people described it as the worst sort of sunburn – then the skin would peel off and ulcerate. People couldn’t sleep, they couldn’t go to work and they couldn’t even wear clothes as their skin was sticking to them.”
It is estimated that there have been potentially hundreds of thousands of affected sofas sold in the UK and claims for compensation from sofa owners that have suffered skin complaints are rife with payouts in the region of £1,250 to £10,000 depending on the severity of the case. The High Court has ordered High Street retailers to put aside £20 million to pay for compensation claims.