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The Consumer Product Safety Commission &

Flame Retardants

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is accepting comments on a new approach for a furniture flammability standard that could dramatically reverse their 2008 commonsense draft standard, and could promote the use of harmful flame retardant chemicals.

Advocates are deeply concerned that the CPSC’s pursuit of a problematic “open flame” standard could re-open the door to the use of flame retardant chemicals at the same time as California is poised to revise its 38 year old ineffective standard (Technical Bulletin 117). California’s revised draft standard  (Technical Bulletin 117-2013) is on track to be implemented by January 1 2014 and would provide improved fire safety without the use of flame retardant chemicals. 

Advocates and more than 75,000 individuals who signed on to a change.org petition from a San Francisco Bay Area fighter are asking the CPSC to adopt their 2008 “smolder” standard or California’s revised standard (Technical Bulletin 117-2013)to stop the flow of harmful flame retardants into our homes and bodies NOW, and engage in research with California to continue to identify even greater methods to improve fire safety.

Health and fire safety advocates have until July 1, 2013 to give comments on this standard.


Here is one of the letters to CPSC

June 30, 2013

CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum and CPSC Commissioners

Office of the Secretary, Consumer Product Safety Commission

4330 East West Highway Room 820

Bethesda, MD 20814

Submitted via: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=CPSC-2008-0005-0002

Re: Public Comments on Docket No. CPSC-2008-0005 (Upholstered Furniture Fire Safety)

To the Commissioners and Staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

Our organizations are committed to achieving fire safety without compromising public health through the use of unnecessary, toxic flame retardant chemicals. We appreciate the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) efforts to improve furniture safety, but we are concerned about the recent proposal to shift the furniture flammability regulation away from the smolder standard proposed in 2008 to an open flame standard.

We urge the CPSC to move ahead with smolder flammability standards now to address the majority of fires and to continue to study the need for and the best way to address open flame ignition, which is responsible for a small minority of furniture fires, as California is doing.

We have supported the CPSC’s intent to adopt an upholstered furniture flammability standard (as proposed in 2008 for 16 CFR 1634 ) that would protect against cigarette (smolder) ignitions, the major cause of furniture fire deaths. According to CPSC’s 2008 analysis, the proposed smolder standard would protect against the cause of the vast majority of furniture-related fires and could be met without the use of potentially toxic flame retardant chemicals. Such a standard would both protect public health from chemical exposures and improve fire safety, and is similar to the new proposed standard in the state of California, TB117-2013.

However, the CPSC recently suggested that they may develop a furniture standard similar to their mattress standard, an open flame test. Experience shows us that an open flame standard is likely to be met with chemical flame retardants. All other open flame standards for furniture (California small open flame TB117 , and large open flame TB133 , , and the United Kingdom furniture flammability regulations ) are largely met by including flame retardant chemicals in foam, fabrics, and/or barriers.

Given the current lack of adequate federal authority to ensure the safety of chemicals used in commerce, the CPSC cannot ensure – or even reasonably expect – that harmful or untested flame retardant chemicals will not be used to meet an open flame standard.

While it may be possible that some barriers could be made without the use of flame retardant chemicals, CPSC’s standard is performance-based and would not dictate that manufacturers use flame retardant free options. If these options are not the least expensive choice, manufacturers are unlikely to select them, especially in inexpensive furniture. Low income communities and communities of color are already disproportionately burdened by higher levels of some flame retardant chemicals , , and this type of standard could perpetuate that inequity.

The chemicals migrate from furniture to dust to humans , . As a result, people and homes in California and the United Kingdom, the only places with open flame standards for furniture, contain much higher levels of harmful flame retardant chemicals, compared to areas without open flame standards.

Flame retardant chemicals commonly used in furniture and children’s products are harmful to human and environmental health or lack adequate toxicological information , . Peer-reviewed human epidemiology and animal studies show that furniture flame retardants are associated with neurological and reproductive impairments , endocrine disruption , mutagenicity , and cancer . Current studies are investigating links to autism and obesity . We are concerned that the health costs of an open flame regulation could be very significant , .

We encourage the CPSC to coordinate information and research with the State of California. California is promulgating a smolder standard for furniture – based in part on the CPSC’s 2008 notice of proposed rulemakingthat will reduce fire deaths and also remove the de facto requirement to use flame retardant chemicals.

We recommend that the CPSC move forward with a smolder standard similar to the draft 2008 rule or the proposed California regulation TB 117-2013.

Such a standard would help prevent the majority of furniture fires and fire deaths without increasing cancer, learning disabilities, obesity, reproductive health problems, and other diseases and conditions linked to exposure to flame retardant chemicals.

At the same time, California also continues to study if an open flame standard is needed to address the small minority of fires caused by open flame ignition and, if so, the best way to address open flame ignition of furniture safely and effectively. We urge the CPSC to follow California’s prudent approach and coordinate with California on open flame research.

We look forward to working with you on a furniture flammability standard for our country that advances both fire safety and public health.



• Pamela Miller, Executive Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics
• Katie Huffling, RN, MS, CNM, Director of Programs, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
• Cate Leger, Board Member, Architects, Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility
• Danielle Fugere, President, As You Sow
• Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director, Breast Cancer Action
• Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., President and CEO, Breast Cancer Fund
• Patty Bellasalma, President, California NOW
• Kathryn Alcantar, California Policy Director, Center for Environmental Health
• Barbara Warren RN, MS, Executive Director, Citizens' Environmental Coalition
• Kathleen A. Curtis LPN, Executive Director, Clean and Healthy New York
• Andria Ventura, Toxics Program Manager, Clean Water Action
• Anne Hulick, CT State Co-Director, Clean Water Action
• Bill Magavern, Policy Director, Coalition for Clean Air
• Sharyle Patton, Director, Biomonitoring Resource Center, Commonweal
• Mark A. Mitchell MD, MPH, Senior Policy Advisor, Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice
• Richard Holober, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of California
• Anne Hulick, Connecticut Co-Director, Clean Water Action, Coordinator, Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut
• Tracey Easthope, MPH, Director, Environmental Health Project, Ecology Center
• Judy Braiman, President, Empire State Consumer Project
• Dan Jacobson, Legislative Director, Environment California
• Emma Halas-O'Connor, Coalition and Advocacy Coordinator, Environmental Health Strategy Center
• Renee Sharp, Director of Research, Environmental Working Group
• Tirso Moreno, General Coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida
• Marcie Keever, Legal Director, Friends of the Earth
• Leslie Samuelrich, Senior Vice President, Green Century Capital Management, Inc.
• Arlene Blum, Executive Director, Green Science Policy Institute
• Gary Cohen, President, Health Care Without Harm
• Tom Lent, Policy Director, Healthy Building Network
• Lin Kaatz Chary PhD, MPH, Founder and Director, Indiana Toxics Action
• Elizabeth Crowe, Executive Director, Kentucky Environmental Foundation
• Tessa Hill, President, Kids for Saving Earth
• Susan D. Shaw DrPH, Founder and President, Marine Environmental Research Institute
• Avinash Kar, Staff Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council
• Sarah Petras, MPH, Environmental Health Program Director, Oregon Environmental Council
• Ana Mascareñas, Policy & Communications Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles
• Eric Uram, Executive Director, Safe Minds
• Robert Gould, MD, President, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter - Physicians for Social Responsibility
• Annie Pham, Policy Advocate, Sierra Club California
• Jill Johnston, Program Coordinator, Southwest Workers Union
• Bryan Parras, Media/Youth Coordinator, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services
• Andrew McGuire, Executive Director, Trauma Foundation
• Paul Burns, Executive Director, Vermont Public Interest Research Group
• Cecil D. Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director/Director of Policy Initiatives, WE ACT for Environmental Justice
• Erin Switalski, Executive Director, Women's Voices for the Earth
• Jim Weitkamp, Vice President, Communications Workers of America -District 9 

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