U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Hal Stratton recently told the Senate Commerce Committee that the agency staff will have new draft proposed flammability standards for mattresses and upholstered furniture ready for Commission consideration this
“Reducing fire deaths is one of our top priorities,” Stratton said. “I
want the standards for upholstered furniture and mattress flammability to move forward as quickly as legally possible.”
The staff’s draft proposed federal mandatory standards will address deaths and injuries from fires involving open-flame ignition of mattresses and both small open-flame (matches, lighters, candles) and cigarette ignition of upholstered furniture. A 1973 mandatory standard already makes mattresses resist cigarette ignition.
Industries reportedly support CPSC in developing these mandatory standards. Mandatory standards apply to imports as well as domestic products.
In recent years, mattress and bedding fires reportedly caused an average of 470 deaths annually. Upholstered furniture fires caused an average of 580 deaths annually.
Stratton said, “More deaths result from residential fires than from any other hazard under CPSC’s jurisdiction. If adopted, these new standards would help save many lives, while maintaining reasonable cost to consumers and design flexibility for manufacturers.”
In 2001, the Commissioners voted to issue an advance notice of proposed rule-making to address mattress/bedding fires ignited by open flames including matches, lighters, and candles. CPSC staff is developing a draft proposed standard to limit the size and spread of a fire involving the mattress and bedclothes.
In 2003, the Commissioners voted to expand an existing proceeding to
develop an upholstered furniture standard to address the risk of fire ignited both by cigarettes and by small open flames.
In addition to the draft standards for mattresses and upholstered
furniture, CPSC staff is preparing a draft advance notice of proposed
rulemaking for the flammability of bedclothes. Bedclothes (such as pillows, blankets, and comforters) reportedly contribute significantly to the mattress fire hazard.
In 1994, CPSC set a standard for cigarette lighters requiring that they be child-resistant. Multipurpose lighters also must be child-resistant. The Commission staff worked with ASTM International and the industry to develop voluntary standards for candles to reduce fire hazards. Several candle standards now cover cautionary labeling, visible smoke emissions, and glass containers.
Other candle fire safety specifications which are provisionally effective now and will be formally approved by 2005 cover stability, flame
height, secondary ignition, and performance near the end of a candle’s useful life.
In the past year, in addition to its work on furnishings, CPSC also
launched a new Burn Center Reporting System to collect data about fires and burns involving children’s clothing. CPSC staff also is studying the effectiveness of smoke alarms, including wireless technologies and improved audibility.
Over the period 1980 through 1998, there was a reported substantial decline in residential fire-related deaths. In 1980 there were approximately 4,560 deaths, but in 1998 there were approximately 2,660 deaths.
This decline in deaths can reportedly be attributed, in part, to CPSC and industry activities including standards for cigarette-resistant mattresses and upholstered furniture, heating and cooking equipment, electrical products, general wearing apparel, children’s sleepwear, child-resistant lighters, fireworks, smoke alarms, and residential sprinklers.
CPSC has designated fire safety as one of the top priorities for the next five years, with the goal of reducing fire deaths further.
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