Newly Proposed California Regulations Will Improve National Health and Fire Safety
By Sarah Janssen, MD, PhD - Senior Scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council
This was originally posted on NRDC's blog Switchboard.
Usually draft regulations released on a Friday get little fanfare, but a new draft furniture flammability standard, TB 117-2013, released today is a really big deal that affects all of us (even if you don't live in California.)
The revised furniture flammability standard fixes a nearly 40 year old problem that has resulted in each of us having pounds of toxic chemicals in our furniture. I had my couch tested and found out it has a pound of a cancer-causing chemical, chlorinated Tris, in the cushion foam.
We even made a video about it:
A POUND of a carcinogen, in my living room, leaching into in my house dust, and from there likely getting into my body and everyone else’s in my family.
And it is used in a way that doesn’t even protect me or my family from a house fire. That is by definition a stupid use of a chemical – one that it is unneccesary, ineffective and dangerous.
You may not know it, but your couch is also full of toxic chemicals put there to supposedly protect you from fires. Almost all couches, whether or not they were purchased in California, contain at least one of five different flame retardant chemicals. Some of the chemicals are linked to cancer, others are linked to neurodevelopmentaland fertility problems. But most chemicals have never been adequately tested for safety due to weaknesses in the federal law, the Toxic Substances Control Act.
The newly revised flammability standard, called Technical Bulletin 117-2013 (TB117-2013), is a win-win for millions of Californian’s and people across the country. When enacted, it will improve fire safety while eliminating the need for any chemicals to be used. It addresses the place where fires start – the outer fabric covering instead of the inner foam and it addresses the cause of most fires – smoldering cigarettes.
The new regulation is also a win for businesses. It makes doing business less burdensome and removes the need for duplicative testing. This is because the newly proposed standard is based on a voluntary federal standard for furniture fabric which 85% of furniture manufacturers already comply with. It won't cost them anything to comply with the new flammability standard and they can stop using toxic chemicals.
In addition the new regulation will exempt 17 children's products from having to comply with flammability standards or carry warning label because they do not pose a fire hazard. This is relief for parents who don't want these toxic chemicals in children's products and to business who won't have to create a special label for their products.
We were pleased last summer when Governor Brown made this a priorty and ordered state regulators to come up with this updated and improved standard. And we hope that his administration will continue to prioritize finalizing this common sense regulation.
The explosive Chicago Tribune investigative series revealed that the flame retardant chemical industry has no shame in deceptively promoting the use toxic chemicals. We expect they will do everything they can to fight this common-sense change.
That's why we're asking you to add your name to a letter supporting the revised TB117-2013 standard. The proposal is open for comments for 45 days. We need to show state regulators and Governor Brown that Californian's support a modern, scientific standard that puts our children's and families' health first.
Please join us and tell your friends to support California’s revised furniture flammability standard.