Governor Brown Announces New Standards to Reduce Toxic Chemicals in Furniture


11-21-2013

SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the approval of the state’s new flammability standards for upholstered furniture, the culmination of the administration’s year-long effort to modernize the standards and reduce Californians’ exposure to harmful flame retardant chemicals.

“Today, California is curbing toxic chemicals found in everything from high chairs to sofas,” said Governor Brown. “These new standards will keep the furniture in our homes fire-safe and limit unnecessary exposure to toxic flame retardants.”

Last year, Governor Brown directed state agencies to revise California’s nearly 40-year-old flammability standards for upholstered furniture sold in the state to reflect modern manufacturing methods that can reduce the use of harmful chemicals.

Numerous studies have found links between exposure to chemicals used as flame retardants in upholstered furniture and cancer and fertility issues. These chemicals also disproportionately impact children. One study found toddlers can have up to three times the level of flame retardants in their bodies as their parents.

The new standards will protect Californians from the most common ignition sources of fires, namely smoldering sources such as cigarettes, space heaters and extension cords. It also more effectively addresses upholstery cover fabric, requires the use of barrier materials with smolder-prone materials and tests the interactions of all the materials that go into a piece of upholstered furniture.

The previous standards included an open-flame test for filling materials, such as foam, which were treated with flame retardants. The new standards eliminate an open flame test for filling materials. A number of manufacturers have already stated that under the new standards, they will no longer have to use flame retardants, and will either meet the requirements through the use of more smolder-resistant cover fabrics or smolder-resistant barriers beneath the cover fabrics.

“The previous standards focused predominantly on filling materials, where fires don’t actually start,” said Tonya Blood, Chief of the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation, which led the effort to develop the new standards. “The new standards were developed to address where the fire begins, which is the cover fabric, and to focus on the interactions of the cover fabric and filling materials.”

Beginning January 1, 2014, manufacturers may begin manufacturing to the new standards. They will have a year to complete the transition and must come into full mandatory compliance on January 1, 2015. The standards, crafted based on a comprehensive review, statewide workshops and public comment, can be read in full here.

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