SACRAMENTO, CA — California's 40-year-old furniture flammability rule will be overhauled if the chief of the state's Bureau of Electronic Appliance Repair, Home Furnishing and Thermal Insulation gets her way.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Tonya Blood told members of the California Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials on Tuesday that she favored replacing the state's rule that prompted upholstery furniture makers to use allegedly toxic flame retardant chemicals to meet fire-safety tests. She suggested that the current chemicals would not be needed if the fire safety test were amended to not include a candle-like flame. Upholstered furniture would still be subjected to a "smoldering cigarette" test which fabric coverings can generally meet.
Blood's public comments came a week after Gov. Jerry Brown asked state agencies to reduce the use of toxic flame retardants in upholstered furniture.
The question surrounding the toxicity of the retardants commonly used by U.S. furniture manufacturers in foam cushions was the subject of a recent four-part investigative series by the Tribune.
The Upholstered Furniture Action Council (UFAC), formed in 1978, to make upholstered furniture more resistant to ignition from smoldering cigarettes, the leading cause of upholstery fires in the home. The group has long been at odds with the tobacco industry over flammability standards.
Citizens for Fire Safety Institute, which the Tribune refers to as "a front group for the largest manufacturers of flame retardants," has challenged the Tribune on the credibility of its report. The group contends that the chemicals used in furniture are not toxic and that the current California flammability standard should remain intact to save lives.
Many reearch studies have concluded that the flame retardants used in upholstered furniture are linked to a variety of health risks including cancer and neurological maladies.
The upholstered furniture flammability rule only applies to products sold in the state of California, However, much like California's CARB rule that impacted formaldehyde emissions from composite wood panels, the standard has been played out as a federal rule.
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