U.S. Safety Agency Pushes to Require Nonflammable Home Furniture

February 4, 2008

A government safety agency is pushing to require all home furnishings sold in the U.S. to be nonflammable.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission advanced a proposal Friday that would require consumer upholstered furniture to be smolder- and flame-resistant, which is not required now, said Julie Vallese, a spokeswoman for the agency. The agency has been trying to advance the measure for more than 10 years, she said.

The proposal wouldn’t define how manufacturers can meet the standard, so they would not be required to use flame-retardant chemicals on furniture, she said.

The agency said upholstered furniture fires cost the U.S. about $1.6 billion each year. About 100 deaths and 130 injuries every year could be prevented by enforcing the standard, according to the agency’s estimates.

In a 2-0 vote, commissioners advanced the proposal into a public comment period of 75 days. After this stage, the agency will spell out how products can be tested to see if they meet the flammability standards, said Vallese. The agency has no timetable for this final action.

Russell Long, vice president of environmental group Friends of the Earth, called the proposal “a tremendous victory for both fire safety as well as the protection of public health.”

“Hopefully this will send a message to many furniture makers who are voluntarily adding dangerous fire retardants to furniture. There are far safer ways to obtain fire safety,” Long said.


On the Net:

Consumer Product Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.gov/

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