• David Perry

Update on FR compliance

A new open flame mattress standard is now on the books in California, and a similar standard has been proposed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The bedding industry has responded to the California standard with new lines designed to retail in that bellwether state. In some cases, those new FR lines also will be rolled out nationally.

In this special report, Furniture/Today provides some key details of the new FR mattress lines. One chart highlights what each member of Bedding's Big Four is doing to add FR protection. A second chart reports on the plans of other producers that have announced FR programs. Many more bedding producers will reveal their FR plans in the coming months.

The stories in the package look at the mattress safety issue from various perspectives. One is that of a supplier. Stephan Tanda, CEO of Freudenberg Nonwovens, which supplies FR materials to bedding producers, shares his perspectives on the mattress flammability issue. And Tatiana Butovitsch Temm, an executive with Volvo, offers insights she has gleaned from that safety-focused company.

In addition, this report includes an update on developments in the upholstery arena, where rules relating to flammability are still being discussed by the CPSC.

Bedding's Big Four describe FR mattress programs
Company Name of FR solution
Sealy FlameGuard
This is a three-part FR solution that is "transparent," the company says. It involves the substitution of non-FR components with new FR components in a one-to-one replacement. Blends of FR fibers are added to the mattress panel and the borders of the mattress and the box springs. An FR material is added to the bottom of the mattress, and Kevlar FR thread is used to close external seams. The materials used are chemical-free and non-toxic, the company says. The solution is incorporated into bedding lines now being shipped throughout California.
Dave McIlquham, Sealy CEO, says that the company's "FR initiatives entailed over two years of planning, development, and testing in addition to a multi-million dollar investment."
Simmons Simmons Defense Fibers
This incorporates DuPont's new Fire Resistant High Loft, a new FR innovation that provides mattress producers with a higher-quality alternative to existing high loft treated with FR chemicals, according to DuPont. The new DuPont product incorporates inherently FR materials and features a two-layer system that provides thermal performance in the base layer, while a second layer provides an aesthetically pleasing white top, DuPont says. Simmons debuts the new DuPont product with bedding for sale in California this year.
Bob Hellyer, president, says that Simmons FR bedding offers "the most robust solution on the market today."
Serta FireBlocker
This is a proprietary blend of natural and synthetic fibers. Serta has not publicly identified the specifics of the solution, but industry sources says it consists, in part, of boric acid-treated cotton. That approach to providing FR protection is being publicly questioned by one specialty sleep producer, but is defended as safe by various bedding industry groups who note that boron occurs throughout nature and in various foods. Serta last year became the first national bedding producer to offer FR protection nationally, and has promoted its FR offerings with consumer and trade marketing programs.
Bob Sherman, president of Serta International: Serta's FireBlocker lines "are selling at retail. I don't think it's plus business. It has given us plus respect."
Spring Air
Spring Air has selected FR fibers from Vita Nonwovens for its initial line of FR bedding, which will be distributed this year in California. FR fibers are used in the panel and borders of the mattress and box spring. Kevlar thread is used to close the seams. Spring Air tested 28 different technologies and nine different types of mattress constructions before it arrived at its current FR solution.
Jim Nation, Spring Air president: "We will continue to refine our FR solution to offer the best value in the marketplace."
FR lines available from other producers
Company Name of FR solution
Boyd Specialty Sleep Fire Shield
This specialty sleep producer offered its FR technology as an option on its lines at the October 2004 High Point market. President Denny Boyd: "We have been carefully and methodically testing various options on our mattress products and have developed what we call the Fire Shield, a patent-pending design which allows us to apply this design to all our specialty sleep mattresses, including air, natural and engineered latex, visco-elastic memory foam, and fluid suspension styles."
Carolina Mattress Guild Safe Dreams
This regional producer, based in Thomasville, N.C., was the first in the country to introduce new open flame-protected bedding lines, which it did in April of 2003. Retail response has been overwhelmingly positive, the company says. Most of its bedding lines now incorporate FR protection, which is provided by Elk Technologies' VersaShield FR product. President Neal Grigg: "The entire fire-resistant matter has been under so much perceived controversy that one could lose sight of the goal, which is to make safer products. ... It is most certainly possible to make products which comply but do not compromise the feel and affordability — plus look darn good."
Comfor-Pedic Flame Shield
Flame Shield is a proprietary barrier fabric with four-way stretch characteristics that does not change the feel of the company's visco-elastic bedding, which is produced in China and shipped to the United States. That FR protection, with no chemical treatments, was added to all Comfor-Pedic beds last fall.
President Jack Squires: "We have dedicated ourselves to be the leader in both the comfort and safety of consumers everywhere."
Restonic Flame Fighter
Restonic is the first bedding producer to offer bedding lines that are certified by Underwriters Laboratories as being compliant with the new California open flame mattress flammability standard. The UL-certification will be on Restonic's Comfort Care and Sensora mattresses and box springs. All Restonic licensees will be shipping new FR bedding lines by this summer, the producer says.
Restonic CEO Kevin Toman: "Underwriters Laboratories is such a well-known commodity to consumers. It gives Restonic credibility."
Therapedic SafeTouch
Beginning its FR bedding program with its new promotional Medicoil line, which retails from $399 to $699. Its SafeTouch FR system incorporates an FR fiber barrier and FR thread.
President Gerry Borreggine: "Consumer safety isn't dictated by a price point. The consumer who spends $499 for a set of bedding is entitled to the same safety features as someone who spends $1,299."
United Sleep Products Dream Guard
This FR solution consists of an FR fiber wrap that does not change the feel or comfort of the beds, the producer says. It offers that FR protection at four key retail price points: $399, $799, $899 and $999.
Thomas Nieman, vice president of sales: "All our dealers are being strongly encouraged to carry something from the Dream Guard line. It's the right thing for us and it's the right thing for the consumer."

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