CA Gov Approves New Furniture Flammability Standards to Reduce Toxic Exposure

Posted: 11/22/2013  browse the blog archive
CA Gov Approves New Furniture Flammability Standards to Reduce Toxic Exposure

Governor Edmund “Jerry” Brown announced yesterday his approval of California’s new flammability standards for upholstered furniture after a year-long effort to modernize the standards and reduce consumer exposure to toxic flame retardant chemicals.  Such toxic flame retardant chemicals have been the subject of numerous Proposition 65 actions brought by clients of The Chanler Group.

Last year, Gov. Brown directed state agencies to revise California’s decades-old Technical Bulletin 117 (TB-117), which required that all filling material inside upholstered furniture be able to withstand an open flame test.  This led to nearly all foam padded furniture in the United States being made with flame retardants, since most furniture manufacturers simply made their products to California standards and sold them nationwide.  However, many of these flame retardant chemicals, such as TDCPP and TCEP, are linked to increased risk of cancer or reproductive harm, and they are released from the furniture into office and household dust, placing adults, children and pets at risk of exposure.  Children are disproportionately impacted, as they are smaller and more susceptible to exposures from TDCPP and TCEP.  Indeed, one study showed that toddlers are likely to have three times the amount of these chemicals in their systems as their parents.

The updated TB-117 will protect Californians from the most common ignition sources of fires, namely smoldering sources such as cigarettes, space heaters and extension cords. It also more effectively addresses upholstery cover fabric, requires the use of barrier materials with smolder-prone materials and tests the interactions of all the materials that go into a piece of upholstered furniture.

Beginning January 1, 2014, manufacturers may begin manufacturing to the new standards. They will have a year to complete the transition and must come into full mandatory compliance on January 1, 2015. The standards, crafted based on a comprehensive review, statewide workshops and public comment, can be read in full here

The Chanler Group’s clients have filed complaints and achieved settlements with dozens of furniture companies for violations of Proposition 65 in connection with the flame retardant chemicals TDCPP and TCEP.  Under Proposition 65, companies offering products for sale that contain chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive harm—such as TDCPP and TCEP—must first provide consumers with a health hazard warning.

The Chanler Group represents citizen enforcers who, acting in the public interest, commence actions against businesses offering products for sale in California that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm without first providing the health hazard warning required by Proposition 65. Citizen enforcers bringing Proposition 65 actions in the public interest may obtain a Court Judgment imposing civil penalties, an injunction requiring reformulation of products, and/or provision of health hazard warnings. The Chanler Group has represented citizen enforcers of Proposition 65 for more than twenty years.