December 19, 2013

Consumers in California will soon be able to choose couches and other home furnishings with lower toxicity. Last spring we asked our members to sign an action alert supporting a new furniture flammability standard, which was finalized in late November and will go into effect January 1, 2014. The new standard eliminates the requirement that upholstered furniture meet an open-flame test; instead, furniture will be required to withstand the more common threat of catching fire from a smoldering cigarette, space heater or extension cords.

With the revised standard, furniture manufacturers will no longer find it necessary to treat upholstered furniture, foam cushions, and other home furnishings, including children’s products, with flame-retardant chemicals that can cause cancer and reproductive harm. “Flame-retardant chemicals used in furniture have been linked to lower IQ in children, reproductive problems, thyroid disease and other health impacts,” said SF Bay Area PSR board member Dr. Sarah Janssen when she was recently quoted in the Los Angeles Times. Dr. Janssen went on to say that “These new regulations eliminate the need for flame-retardant chemicals in our furniture and yet our furniture is still fire-safe.”

According to the Governor’s office, many manufacturers have said they intend to make less toxic and fire-safe home furnishings by using more smolder-resistant cover fabrics or smolder-resistant barriers beneath the cover fabrics. Unfortunately, the new regulations do not prohibit the use of chemical flame retardants and the product label won’t necessarily say if the product is treated with the toxic substances. So next time you’re ready for a new couch or other home furnishing, do your research first. Make sure the product you purchase meets TB 117-2013 (it will be on the label) and contact the manufacturer to determine if they have removed all flame retardant chemicals from their product. If so, you can relax knowing that your couch is free of toxic flame retardants and fire-safe as well.

You can learn more about the decades-long campaign of deception to promote the unnecessary use of these chemicals in the HBO documentary, ‘Toxic Hot Seat’, which includes SF Bay Area PSR Board member Dr. Sarah Janssen, on Dec 30th 2:30pm on HBO2; and it is also available on HBO Go. Watch the trailer here.