CPSC Votes to Propose Fire Safety Standard for Mattresses, Initiate Rulemaking for Bedclothes

December 29, 2004

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted unanimously (2 to 0) last week to issue a proposed safety standard to reduce deaths and injuries from fires involving mattresses.

The proposed standard for mattresses addresses fires ignited by an open flame. CPSC also voted to issue an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to develop a separate safety standard to address bedclothes (such as blankets, comforters, and pillows) flammability.

“This is a significant step toward reducing deaths and injuries from mattress fires,” said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. “This is a top priority at CPSC. Voting for this proposed mattress standard means we are pretty far down the road toward a final standard.”

CPSC Commissioner Thomas Moore added, “This proposed standard will lead to mattresses that are a dramatic improvement, in terms of fire resistance and lives saved, over most mattresses currently on the market.”

The proposed mattress standard will 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 losses annually. CPSC staff estimates that most of these deaths and injuries would be addressed by the 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 proposed mattress standard would limit the size of the fire and prevent or delay the time to flashover. This would allow people more time to discover and escape the fire, reducing deaths and injuries. Staff believes that materials are commercially available that can be used to produce comfortable, practical, and reasonably-priced mattresses with significantly improved fire performance.

The CPSC rulemaking proceeding to set flammability standards for bedclothes will begin with a notice in the Federal Register requesting public comments on the fire risks and possible approaches to reducing them. Bedclothes are the first item to ignite in about 80 percent of mattress and bedding fires and can contribute substantially to the risks associated with mattress/bedding fires.

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