CPSC Backs New Flammability Standard for Mattresses

March 1, 2006

One of the most important safety standards reportedly ever developed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was approved recently. By a vote of 3 to 0, CPSC approved a new federal standard to reduce the severity of mattress fires.

The new mandatory flammability standard for mattresses is the first major regulation passed by the CPSC in the agency’s history. A major rule is one that has more than a $100 million annual impact on the economy.

When fully effective, CPSC estimates the new mandatory standard for mattresses is likely to save as many as 270 lives, preventing 78 percent of the deaths, and 1,330, or 84 percent of the injuries currently occurring every year.

“Consumers who purchase a new mattress that meets this standard will add an important layer of fire safety protection to their home,” said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. “Lives will be saved as a result of this standard, as it requires new mattresses to limit the spread and intensity of a mattress fire, which will give people more time to escape from their residence.”

The mandatory standard addresses mattress fires ignited by open flame sources, including matches, candles, lighters, and other related scenarios. The test protocol was developed in coordination with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). “NIST’s contribution to CPSC’s development of this standard was invaluable,” said Stratton.

Under the new mandatory federal rule, mattress sets must meet a performance standard. The CPSC does not specify how manufacturers are to design their mattresses to meet the standard. The new federal standard for mattresses goes into effect on July 1, 2007.

In the performance standard, the peak heat release rate is limited to 200 kW during a 30 minute test. The total heat release is limited to 15 MJ within the first 10 minutes of the test.

Cigarette ignition is covered by a separate mandatory standard. That standard, 16 CFR Part 1632, has been in place for more than 30 years during which deaths and injuries from mattress fires caused by smoking materials have reportedly fallen dramatically.

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