In 2013, California transformed its fire safety standards by dropping California Technical Bulletin 117. This 1975 law required foam used in furniture cushions to withstand a 12-second exposure to small, open flame. This requirement led to the widespread use of chemical additives to slow the spread of flame.
Mounting evidence has shown these chemicals to have serious health effects, including increased breast cancer rates in firefighters, attention problems, and neurological effects in children exposed to these flame retardants during infancy.
The change in flame retardant rules now requires upholstery fabric to resist a smoldering cigarette, impacting the entire furniture industry.
This testing standard is NFPA 260 Standard Methods of Tests and Classification System for Cigarette Ignition Resistance of Components of Upholstered Furniture
The new law, called “TB 117-2013″ doesn’t forbid furniture manufacturers to use the chemicals. Instead, it sets a new flammability test — known as a “smolder test — that furniture makers can meet without using the flame-retardant chemicals. It is similar to ASTM E1353.
We recommend that our Qpractice members be aware of these and other different furniture tests and standards.