Califonia’s revised flammability standard, Technical Bulletin 117-2013, went into effect January 1, 2014. AHFA provided key technical advice to California officials as they worked to overhaul the 35-year-old rule. The new standard addresses concerns about flame retardant chemicals by eliminating the previously required open flame test and relying on three tests to evaluate the cigarette ignition resistance of upholstery cover fabrics, barrier materials and filling materials. These smolder tests must be passed without the use of flame retardant chemicals. AHFA has developed a comprehensive TB 117-2013 Compliance Toolbox for member companies.
On the federal level, there is increasing pressure on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to update and finalize the furniture flammability standard it proposed in 2008 (16 FR Part 1634). That measure was the first CPSC proposal to focus on ignition of furniture by cigarettes – which account for over 90 percent of furniture fires. But it was waylaid in 2010 due to technical issues surrounding the development of a standard cigarette and standard foam for use in testing.
Just as California was finalizing its new smolder standard, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) began making a case for a federal upholstered furniture flammability standard based on California’s old open flame test.
CPSC continues to solicit industry and stakeholder feedback and hosted a meeting with Underwriters Laboratories in 2013 to discuss their upholstered furniture test data. CPSC is looking seriously at barriers that could be applied between the foam and the upholstery fabric.
AHFA has voiced concerns about the durability, look and feel of proposed barrier solutions. AHFA also has gone on record in opposition of the NFPA’s proposal for a new open flame test – which seems particularly dubious given the small number of non-purposeful residential fires originating from open flame sources and the growing scrutiny surrounding the health impacts of FR chemicals needed to meet open flame tests.
For 35 years, AHFA has championed the voluntary smolder standard developed by the Upholstered Furniture Action Council (UFAC). AHFA has supported every effort to develop a national flammability standard but has always argued in favor of a flexible solution that provides meaningful safety benefits while preserving the design, comfort and affordability of upholstered furniture. In addition, AHFA has steadfastly opposed “solutions” that would increase chemical exposure to customers and employees. (September 2015)