California Proposal to Change Fire Safety Standards for Upholstered Furniture Could Jeopardize Consumer Safety

Aug 16, 2013, 17:29 ET from American Chemistry Council

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The California Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation is poised to begin a 15-day comment period on final recommended changes in fire safety regulations that would, among other changes, eliminate the state's open flame test for upholstered furniture. In anticipation of these developments on T.B. 117, the following statement can be attributed to Steve Risotto of the North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA):

"We share the alarm expressed by many fire safety experts that this action by the Bureau will remove an important layer of fire protection that has benefitted Californians for over 35 years.  The National Fire Protection Association reports that candles, matches and lighters are a major cause of upholstered furniture fires and that the number of fires caused by smoldering cigarettes is on the decline. The Bureau should not remove the requirement for an open flame test for upholstered furniture until it has considered the results of a planned two-year study on open flame fire resistance properties of barrier materials and other technologies.  The Bureau proposal is moving in the wrong direction."

What Others Are Saying about Open Flame Testing

National Fire Protection Association:  "Address the Full Spectrum of Major Fire Scenarios."  "NFPA feels strongly that a fully comprehensive fire safety regulation of upholstered furniture must address the full spectrum of major fire scenarios, including the open flame scenarios." (NFPA comments to Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation on proposed changes to TB 117, March 22, 2013)

Underwriters Laboratories, Inc: "An Open Flame Test is a Necessary Addition to Smoldering Test Requirements."  "Based on the research we have conducted, UL continues to believe that an open flame test is a necessary addition to smoldering test requirements to understand furniture fire dynamics, time to flashover, and to provide sufficient egress time for occupants." (U L, Inc. comments to Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation on proposed changes to TB 117, March 20, 2013)

California Conference of Arson Investigators: "The Elimination of the Open Flame Ignition Test is a Significant Step Backward."  "Polyurethane foam is resistive to smoldering ignition but ignites easily and will burn vigorously when ignited with an open flame."… "The elimination of the open flame ignition test is a significant step backward." (CCAI comments to Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation on proposed changes to TB 117, March 6, 2013)

US Consumer Product Safety Commission: "Smolder Ignition Bench-Scale Testing 'Did Not Demonstrate an Adequate Prediction of Real Furniture Flammability Performance'."  After testing upholstered furniture, CPSC concluded that "bench-scale performance did not demonstrate an adequate prediction of real furniture flammability performance, especially in the smoldering ignition tests. The open-flame ignition bench-scale qualification tests for fire barriers, however, do appear to result in improvements in full-scale fire performance." (US CPSC public notice dated March 15, 2013)

California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation: "Any National Furniture Flammability Standard Must Address the Typical Scenario of Open Flame Ignition in Upholstered Furniture."  "The Bureau strongly believes that any national furniture flammability standard must address the typical scenario of open flame ignition in upholstered furniture."  "Considering the fact that many open flame furniture fires are caused by small children playing with matches or lighters, the seriousness of such hazard cannot be overstated." (The California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation comment letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission  on Proposed Furniture Flammability Standard 16 CFR 1634, May 16, 2008)

National Association of State Fire Marshals: "The CPSC Must Grasp the Opportunity to Address Open Flame Ignitions of Upholstered Furniture." "… the CPSC must grasp the opportunity to address open flame ignitions of upholstered furniture as part of this rulemaking. The CPSC's own analysis, and that of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), have indicated that ignition of upholstered furniture by non-smoldering sources is significant. As the NFPA representative pointed out in her April 25 presentation, non-cigarette ignitions of upholstered furniture accounted for nearly 80 percent of the fires and 55 percent of fire deaths each year from 2006 to 2010." (National Association of State Fire Marshals Statement to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, June 27, 2013

National and International Flammability Experts: "Address Both Smoldering and Open Flame Ignition Sources."  "We advise and urge the State of California to take meaningful action to address both smoldering and open flame ignition sources of upholstered furniture fires, and not allow a regulation to be promulgated that could well result in more fires, with related injuries, deaths and property loss."  (Comments of Margaret Simonson McNamee, Ph.D. (SP technical Research Institute of Sweden), Gordon Damant (Retired, Bureau Chief, California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation), Roy Deppa, P.E., (Retired, US Consumer Product Safety Commission), Nicholas Marchica (Retired, US Consumer Product Safety Commission), David Purser, Ph.D. (Retired, Fire and Risk Sciences Division, UK Building Research Establishment) and Steven Spivak (Professor Emeritus, Fire Protection Engineering, University of Maryland) to Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation on proposed changes to TB 117, March 25, 2013)

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SOURCE American Chemistry Council