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More than 80,000 People Support California's Proposed Standard to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals from Furniture

Victoria Rome

Posted March 25, 2013

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Good news this week. The agency responsible for updating California’s flammability standard, the California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation, will hold a public hearing tomorrow on the new, proposed standard that would improve fire protection without the need for toxic or untested chemicals in our furniture. Leading up to the hearing, more than 80,000 people and groups from 35 countries around the world have signed petitions and written letters in support of California’s proposed flammability standard, also known as Technical Bulletin 117-2013 (TB 117-2013). About 60,000 of these signatures will be delivered to the Bureau by our coalition members at tomorrow’s hearing.

I, along with firefighters, health experts and consumer groups, will testify at the hearing, and our coalition will hold a press conference prior to the hearing outside the Department of Consumer Affairs Building at 9:30 a.m. PT. This media event will give press and others the opportunity to hear from diverse voices about the importance of keeping toxic chemicals out of furniture. We hope you can join us!

You may be wondering how this small California government entity with a long name has garnered national and international attention. You can read the sordid tale in an award winning series by the Chicago Tribune. In short, the tobacco industry and the chemical industry got together in the 1970s to push for flame retardant chemicals in furniture as a way to deflect regulation from cigarettes, the cause of most fires. As a result, the now 40-year-old standard, TB 117, became the de facto furniture flammability standard for the entire nation, and increasingly throughout the world.  In fact, a study  published last year examined 102 couches across the U.S. and found that 85 percent of them contained toxic or untested flame retardant chemicals.  Similarly, a study published in 2011 examined more than 100 baby products across the U.S. and found that approximately 80 percent of baby products with polyurethane foam contained one or more toxic or untested flame retardants. Sadly, flame retardants have even been found in the arctic.

Here is a video and opportunity to take action in support of TB 117-2013:


The chemicals used as flame retardants are found everywhere and have been linked to cancer, decreased fertility, hormone disruption, lower IQ, and hyperactivity. Even worse, the old standard has not proven effective in stopping fires! The old standard requires the foam inside of upholstered furniture to withstand an open flame for 12 seconds. This does nothing to address the real cause of most fires: smoldering cigarettes. The new standard, TB 117-2013, requires testing of the fabric on the outside, where fires start. Many fabrics are inherently fire resistant and already meet the new standard. Most importantly, the new standard can be met without the need for toxic flame retardant chemicals. 

We look forward to working with the Bureau and our coalition partners as California moves forward to finalize its new flammability standard.

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Comments (Add yours)

Harold ThomasNov 20 2013 12:04 PM

We are looking for some vendor who will actually sell the fire retardant free foam for furniture rehab and recovering. Is there a list or do you recommend ethical manufacturers? Thank you s/

Victoria RomeFeb 7 2014 07:41 PM

Harold, sorry for the delay but you can find some good tips at this link:

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