January 3, 2014 – On November 21, 2013, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced approval of the state’s new flammability standard for upholstered furniture, culminating a year-long effort to address growing concerns about consumer exposure to flame retardant chemicals.
The “new” standard, developed by the California Bureau of Electronic Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (BEAR-HFTI), is based largely on the requirements and testing methodology within a voluntary industry program developed by the Upholstered Furniture Action Council in 1978 and later incorporated into ASTM E1353-08a: Standard Test Method for Cigarette Ignition Resistance of Components of Upholstered Furniture.
The American Home Furnishings Alliance supported the revision to TB 117, and AHFA staff assisted BEAR-HFTI on various technical aspects of the testing methodology for the standard. AHFA believes the updated standard addresses concerns surrounding flame retardant chemicals while not compromising fire safety for California consumers.
California’s previous standard, adopted in 1975, included an open flame test for filling materials such as foam. Most filling materials could not pass the open flame test without the use of flame retardant chemicals in the foam. Because most manufacturers considered it cost-prohibitive to maintain separate foam supplies and production lines for California, TB 117 became the de facto national standard.
The new standard not only eliminates the need for flame retardant chemicals, it also addresses where fires actually begin, which is the cover fabric, not the foam, and focuses on the interaction of the cover fabric with the filling material.
The new standard went into effect January 1, 2014. Manufacturers have one year to complete the transition to the new testing procedures. The standard can be read in full here.
Throughout nearly four decades of debate over how best to reduce the number of residential fires that involve upholstered furniture, AHFA has advocated a focus on preventing smolder ignition and maintained that product modifications should be made only as they are proven safe, effective and affordable for the greatest number of consumers.
The TB 117 revision meets these objectives and also satisfies Governor Brown’s mandate for a flammability standard that can be met without the use of flame retardant chemicals.