CPSC Staff Briefs Commission Regarding Fire Safety Standards fpr Mattresses, Bedclothes

December 10, 2004

The staff of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has briefed CPSC Commissioners on possible fire safety standards to reduce deaths and injuries from fires involving mattresses and bedclothes (blankets, comforters, and pillows).

The staff’s draft proposed standard for mattresses addresses fires ignited by an open flame. The CPSC staff also briefed Commissioners on a draft advance notice of proposed rulemaking to develop a separate safety standard for bedclothes flammability.

“Reducing fire deaths is one of our top priorities,” said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. “I want the standard for mattress flammability to move as quickly as the process permits.”

If the Commissioners vote to proceed with the notice of proposed rulemaking, the proposed mattress standard would be published in the Federal Register, requesting public comment for a period of 75 days. An opportunity for oral testimony will also be scheduled.

From 1995 through 1999, mattresses and bedding were reportedly the first items to ignite in an estimated 19,400 residential fires each year. These fires resulted in an estimated 440 deaths, 2,230 injuries, and $273.9 million property loss annually. CPSC staff estimates that most of these deaths and injuries would be addressed by the draft proposed standard.

Fires involving mattresses of traditional constructions can reach flashover (when the entire contents of the room ignite) in less than 5 minutes. The draft proposed mattress standard would limit the size of the fire and prevent or delay the time to flashover. This will allow people more time to discover and escape the fire, reducing deaths and injuries. Staff indicated that materials are commercially available that can be used to produce comfortable, practical, and reasonably-priced mattresses with significantly improved fire performance.

In addition, staff recommended that Commissioners begin rulemaking proceedings to set flammability standards for bedclothes. Bedclothes are reportedly the first item to ignite in about 80 percent of mattress/bedding fires.

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