Under California Senate Bill 1019, passed in 2014, furniture manufactured after January 1, 2015 must clearly state whether flame retardants were added to upholstery materials. Flame retardants have been linked to cancer, developmental problems, and impaired fertility. Flame retardant chemicals include halogenated, phosphorous, nitrogen and nanoscale among other chemical compounds identified on the Safety Data Sheet of Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
The CA SB 1019 specifically applies to “covered products” which means any flexible polyurethane or upholstered or reupholstered furniture sold in California that is required to meet the test requirements set forth in TB 117-2013, entitled Requirements, Test Procedure and Apparatus for testing the Smolder Resistance of Materials Used in Upholstered Furniture.
Currently, upholstered furniture intended or expected to be used exclusively for outdoors is not required to meet TB 117-2013. In addition, the law will not be retroactive meaning furniture manufactured before January 1, 2015 can be sold without the flame retardant chemical labeling.
U.S. manufacturers had for decades added flame retardants to furniture cushions to meet a flammability standard adopted by the state of California during the mid-1970s. TB 117 required furniture foam to withstand a candle like flame for 12 seconds, a requirement that lead most manufactures to add flame retardants to the spongy petroleum-based material.
California’s new flammability standard, TB 117-2013, no longer requires uncovered furniture foam to resist an open flame. Instead it addresses the biggest cause of furniture fires by requiring upholstery fabric to resist a smoldering cigarette.
Couches and chairs marked in compliance with TB 117-2013 might or might not still contain fire retardant chemicals. Since the new flammability standard does not ban the use of flame retardants, California lawmakers adopted a labeling requirement to prevent confusion about which products are free of the chemicals. The new labeling verbiage is as follows:
“The upholstery materials in this product:
_______contain added flame retardant chemicals
_______contain NO added flame retardant chemicals
The State of California has updated the flammability standard and determined that the fire safety requirements of this product can be met without adding flame retardant chemicals. The State has identified many flame retardant chemicals as being known to, or strongly suspected of, adversely impacting human health and development.”
An “X” is indicated next to the statement that applies to the product.
At the moment no other state requires flammability standards for furniture. However, with California accounting for an estimated 15% of all furniture sales, laws passed there can affect furniture manufacturing in the rest of the country.
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control is expected to begin the testing of samples of products that are marked “contain NO added flame retardant chemicals” by the fall of 2015. Also, if requested, manufactures/suppliers will have thirty days to provide certified test results attesting flame retardants were not added. Both the manufacturer and the component suppliers for the upholstered furniture products are jointly and severely liable for documentation.
One important benefit for upholstery fabric companies under the new California standard is that they will no longer have to obtain flammability certificates from United Furniture Action Council (UFAC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). TB 117-2013 supersedes both of these tests. Existing fabrics that have been qualified for UFAC and NFPA260 will be ‘grandfathered’ in. Going forward, there will be no need to qualify new fabrics using these test methods. All new fabrics will need to be tested to TB 117-2013.