The American Home Furnishings Alliance has petitioned the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to adopt a national mandatory upholstered furniture flammability standard that mirrors performance standards and test methods prescribed by California’s Technical Bulletin 117-2013.
The organization said it filed this petition on Oct. 30 on behalf of a joint industry coalition that includes the American Fiber Producers Association,, the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Cotton Council of America, the National Council of Textile Organizations, the North American Home Furnishings Assn., the Polyurethane Foam Assn. and the Upholstered Furniture Action Council.
“This petition provides the CPSC with an opportunity to bring closure to the longstand-ing issue of furniture flammability,” said Bill Perdue, the AHFA’s vice president of regulatory affairs.
While TB-117-2013 is mandatory in California, many manufacturers comply on a voluntary basis because they ship the same products outside of California.
The AHFA petition comes following a request by CPSC Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic to adopt TB-117 as a national flammability standard. Mohorovic suggested that the commission adopt the standard at a regulatory conference sponsored by the AHFA on Oct. 1.
The key difference, the AHFA notes, is that under Mohorovic’s proposal, compliance would remain voluntary, while the AHFA petition calls for a mandatory national standard. The AHFA noted that it has been working on its approach, including assembling the coalition of stakeholders, long before last month’s regulatory conference.
“This would provide a legal argument for the federal standard to preempt any state-specific standards,” noted Andy Counts, the AHFA’s CEO. “Ultimately, this would level the playing field for the entire industry.”
The proposal is the latest in a discussion that has taken place for decades regarding the need a national flammability standard for residential upholstered furniture. In recent years the debate has focused on whether product should be tested with an open flame test or a smolder test.
The push for a smolder test is based on research that has shown cigarettes to be the cause of ignition in 90% of upholstered furniture fires that resulted in a fatality.
In recent years, the debate also addressed the safety of fire retardant chemicals that are believed to cause cancer.
Environmental groups voiced concern that these flame retardants would be needed to meet the open flame testing requirements.
TB-117 went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. It addressed concerns about the flame retardant chemicals by eliminating the open flame test used under the old standard. It now incorporates three smolder tests that evaluate cigarette resistance of upholstery covers fabrics, barrier materials and filling materials.
While the standard does not prohibit the use of flame retardants, it requires all upholstery sold in California to have a label that indicates whether or not the product contains chemical flame retardants, the AHFA noted.
“Adoption of this standard under the Flammable Fabrics Act, coupled with a robust labeling program that attests to a manufacturer’s compliance with the required test methods and performance standards, would create a national standard that addresses the issue of smolder ignition for residential upholstered furniture, saves lives and reduces losses at a relatively low cost to the CPSC, the industry and the consumer,” the AHFA said in a statement.