Ineffective, toxic flame-retardant chemicals on the way out

For nearly four decades, an outdated California furniture flammability standard has led to the widespread use of toxic flame retardant chemicals, without the promised benefits of reducing fire deaths. Many of these toxic chemicals have been linked to cancer, decreased fertility, hormone disruption, lowered IQ, developmental problems, and environmental pollution.

For six years CFC, alongside a coalition of firefighters, public health officers, environmental groups, parents, scientists, and many others, battled the chemical industry and won a breakthrough for our health and safety, transforming the obsolete regulation with a new draft.

In March, the Brown Administration proposed TB 117-2013 to remove toxic chemicals from furniture sold in California. Expected to take effect in early 2014, the new standard requires upholstery fabric to resist a smoldering cigarette — the leading cause of furniture fires — instead of focusing on the foam underneath, as is the case under TB 117. Foam will not need to be treated with flame retardants in order to meet that test.

Earlier this week, California regulators announced that they are one step closer to adopting the new furniture flammability rule. Consumer and health advocates are encouraged by the news of a short public comment period (15 days) on modifications to the (original) proposed text of TB 117-2013.

One proposed change includes a required compliance date of January 1, 2015 – later than what was originally proposed for compliance – which could mean one more year of toxic exposures in new furniture made for sale in California. Manufacturers are being urged to comply with the new regulation as soon as they are adopted on January 1, 2014, and not to continue another year of unnecessary toxic exposures.

In addition to furniture flammability standards, lawmakers have been urged to go a step further and roll back a similar mandate that requires manufacturers of building insulation to add toxic flame retardants to their products as well.

CFC supports AB 127 (Skinner), which would reduce the use of flame retardant chemicals in building insulation while maintaining building fire safety and encouraging healthy building practices. Once implemented, AB 127 will make building insulation safer and less toxic, without reducing fire safety for building occupants.

Assemblymember Skinner’s bill has moved forward during this session and was recently placed on the Senate Appropriation Committee’s Suspense file to be heard on August 30.

For more information:

AB 127 reduces toxic flame retardants in building insulation, maintains fire safety

New flame retardant standard public hearing