This article discusses a proposal in California that drops the requirement of the use of flame retardant in U.S. furniture. They did this on February 8 2014 under the direction of Governor Jerry Brown. This company would call for companies to stop adding brominated or chlorinated chemicals. The reason they would add this is to reduce the flammability of the fabric and cushions in furniture, such as couches, chairs, beds, pillows, etc.. They wanted to stop this because of the concern of potential health effects in children. This includes reduced IQs, attention problems, and other neurological effects.
I chose this article because the fact that they put chemicals in our furniture to begin with is just astonishing. This article stated that children in California have the highest level of flame retardant in them then any other state. This fact truly make me think about how much toxic chemicals we are exposed to without even knowing it. As someone who has lived in California my whole life, this articles makes me think about how much I have been exposed to. Also, when children are exposed to it during pregnancy or early childhood, it could lead to poorer attention, motor skills, and IQ scores. All these facts of what this chemical does to children makes me wonder why it is just now being changed.
California to Unveil New Flammability Standard to Avoid Chemicals in Furniture
Feb 8, 2013 |By
Brett Israel and Environmental Health News
California unveiled a proposal on Friday that would transform its
controversial fire safety standards by dropping a requirement that has led to
widespread use of flame retardants in U.S. couches and other furniture.
The current standard, adopted in the 1970s, mandates that foam used in
furniture cushions must withstand a 12-second exposure to a small, open flame.
As a result, manufacturers throughout the nation have been adding brominated or
chlorinated chemicals to the foam to slow the spread of flames.
Under the direction of Gov. Jerry Brown, a state agency released a new draft rule on Friday morning that
will eliminate the open-flame test. Instead, state officials say they will
require a smolder-only test, which manufacturers could meet without flame
retardants while still preventing fires.
Over the past several years, concern about the chemicals has mounted as
evidence points to an array of potential health effects, including reduced IQs,
attention problems and other neurological effects in children exposed in the
womb or during infancy. The chemicals have been building up in human bodies,
including breast milk, around the world.
The new draft is in response to a directive issued by Brown to improve fire
safety while reducing exposure to toxic chemicals. Smoldering objects such as
cigarettes, heaters and extension cords, rather than open flames, are the
biggest source of household fires.
"This [proposal] will provide consumers with a more realistic approach to
fire safety in addition to reducing the upholstered furniture’s smolder ignition
potential," according to the state's overview of the proposed changes. "As an
added benefit, this regulatory proposal significantly reduces or eliminates
manufacturers’ reliance on materials treated with flame retardant chemicals. It
is the Bureau’s understanding that many manufacturers, who are no longer
compelled to make materials open-flame resistant, will no longer use flame
retardant chemicals in their products. Manufacturers would instead be able to
purchase and use the less expensive non-flame retardant materials therefore
saving in material costs."
State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) called the administration's move
"enormous" given the Legislature’s "inability due to the power of the chemical
industry to move in this direction.” He sponsored a bill to curb the use of
flame retardant chemicals in consumer products, but it died in committee.
Chemical companies have said that flame retardants are safe and that they
are necessary to prevent dangerous fires from igniting furniture.
“Regrettably, if this proposed regulation moves forward, it will reverse a
fire safety standard that has provided an important layer of protection to
Californians for over 35 years," said a spokesperson from the American Chemistry
Council, an industry group. "Since the National Fire Protection Association
reports that open flame sources are still a major cause of upholstered furniture
fires, regulators in California should propose a standard that addresses this
fire safety risk."
The proposal will go through a six-week public comment period before a final
standard is adopted by the state agency.
Because California is such a large market for furniture, the original
standard, known as Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117), created a de facto standard
across the United States that led to use of flame retardants in most furniture
The new tests would involve mockups of cushions rather than tests of just
foam. This would prompt the use of barrier materials and smolder-proof cover
fabrics to prevent furniture from igniting. Similar materials already are used
The changes will “address upholstery-covered fabric and the interaction
between materials in a couch the way it would occur in a real-world fire," said
Russ Heimerich, spokesman for California's department of Consumer Affairs, which
houses the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and
Thermal Insulation that will release the new draft.
He said it "fulfills Gov. Brown's vision with continuing to improve fire
safety while reducing the use of flame retardant chemicals. We think this does
as good or better as previous standards to ensure furniture won't burn
About 85 percent of furniture on the market today already meets an upholstery
smolder standard, according to a report from the Consumer Product Safety
Commission that proposed a similar smolder standard in 2008 [PDF].
"These types of upholstery are not typically treated with flame retardants,"
said Heather Stapleton, who researches flame retardants at Duke University. "It
should reduce our everyday exposure to flame retardant chemicals if it
Arlene Blum, an environmental chemist with the University of California,
Berkeley, has campaigned for years against flame retardants. She said she was
"cautiously optimistic" about the new proposal.
The legacy of the old standard, however, will be felt for years since many
people keep couches and other furniture for decades.
"Even with new regulations in place we still have the ongoing impact of these
bio-pervasive and bioaccumulating chemicals, which will be with us for decades,"
Leno said. "This is only step one. It will hopefully stop the bleeding."
Because flame retardants are mixed into consumer products, rather than
chemically bound, they can leach out and stick to dust particles that people can
A recent study found them in nearly all couches tested. In
couches purchased before 2005, three out of every four contained flame
retardants. For newer couches, 94 percent contained them, nearly all
next-generation compounds with little known about their potential health
Before 2005, a brominated flame retardant known as penta was used in most
U.S. furniture. When it was banned because it was accumulating in people and
wildlife around the world, newer chemicals came onto the market to help
furniture meet TB 117. Scientists have struggled to keep pace with studying
their health risks.
Children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable, especially in
California. California children have some of the world's highest-measured levels
of flame retardants in their bodies. An ongoing study of California children has
found that exposure during pregnancy or early childhood may lead to children
with poorer attention, motor skills and IQ scores.
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source
published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media