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California officials to speak at AHFA Sustainability Summit

HIGH POINT — The California official heading revisions to that state's longtime flammability regulation and the scientist whose research prompted the urgent regulatory overhaul will both participate in the American Home Furnishings Alliance's 2013 Sustainability Summit.

The event is slated for Feb. 20-21 at the Marriott SouthPark in Charlotte, N.C. Registration information is available online at under EVENTS.

"The environmental and health consequences of our industry's efforts to comply with longtime flammability regulations have been the subject of much debate in 2012. And the resolution of those issues is likely to impact all segments of our industry in 2013 - suppliers, manufacturers and retailers alike," said Bill Perdue, AHFA's vice president of regulatory affairs. "As a result, we have decided to devote the entire first half of our 2013 Summit to the regulatory policies, emerging science and consumer debate surrounding upholstered furniture flammability."

Speakers will include Tonya Blood, chief of the California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation, and Dr. Arlene Blum, founder and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute in Berkeley, Calif.

The Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation is tasked with protecting California consumers by implementing health and safety standards for bedding, furniture and thermal insulation. The bureau fast-tracked revisions to its 1975 flammability standard, TB 117, after a Chicago Tribune investigative report last summer examined the suspected eco-toxicity of flame retardant chemicals used to meet the standard's strict open flame test.

Blood, who was appointed to her post in April, has overseen the revisions and will present the finalized rule at the Sustainability Summit.

Blum has been examining the toxicity of flame retardant chemicals since the 1970s, when her research was instrumental in banning the use of brominated tris in children's pajamas. Her studies figured prominently in the Tribune's investigative report, and she made headlines again in November with the release of a study examining the flame retardant chemicals found in sofas purchased over the past two decades.

She has been invited to present the summit's keynote address on how business, industry, science and government can work together on a "sustainable" strategy for chemical policy reform.

Blood and Blum also will take part in a panel to be moderated by Dr. Ana Mascareñas, policy and communications coordinator with Physicians for Social Responsibility in Los Angeles. Other panelists will include Robert Luedeka, executive director of the Polyurethane Foam Assn.; Hardy Poole, vice president of regulatory and technical affairs for the National Textile Assn.; Don Coleman, president of the Upholstered Furniture Action Council; and Malin Näsman, product requirements and compliance specialist for Ikea North America.

Chris Andresen from Washington-based Dutko Associates will bring attendees up to date on the Consumer Product Safety Commission's progress on a federal flammability standard, as well as efforts to reform the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. Also, Joel Tenney, director of advocacy for ICL Industrial Products, will address emerging technology in the FR chemical industry.

AHFA's Perdue will close the opening day business program with a brief review of California Proposition 65 labeling requirements for upholstered products that still contain the flame retardant TDCPP.

While the first half of the Summit will address the environmental impact of product - specifically, the environmental impact of flammability policy and regulation - the second half will be devoted to the environmental impact of manufacturing and distribution operations, with a special emphasis on energy efficiencies.

Bob Leker, renewable energy program manager for the North Carolina Energy Office, will present "Embracing an Energy Efficient Future," and Wendy Cockerham, of Weaver Cooke Energy Solutions in Greensboro, N.C., will discuss "Lighting Retrofits and Improved Energy Efficiencies."

A case study in environmental efficiencies will be presented by Paul Kaminski, director of environment, health and safety for Ethan Allen. Kaminski has led modifications to AHFA's EFEC environmental management program in order to implement it across Ethan Allen's company-owned store and distribution center network. As a result of his effort - and the cost-saving efficiencies at the retail locations - AHFA is now preparing a modified EFEC program designed for implementation at stores.

Shifting the attention to responsible recycling initiatives, Ryan Trainer, executive director of the International Sleep Products Assn., will tell about his organization's battle against "extended producer responsibility laws," which require manufacturers to finance the costs of recycling or safely disposing of their products. Several initiatives have targeted bedding, and upholstered furniture could be added to these state-by-state efforts to reduce landfill content. ISPA supports a more efficient, cost-effective national system with uniform rules from coast to coast.

AHFA will close the 2013 Summit with a panel discussion including representatives from several organizations promoting consumer information labeling in the home furnishings industry. "What Consumers Really Want to Know: The Case for Transparency" will cover foam, fabric, bedding and furniture labels designed to provide health and environmental information to consumers in an easy-to-understand format.

Until Jan. 31, registration for the 2013 Summit is $299 for AHFA members and $399 for non-members. After Jan. 31, member registration increases to $350, and non-member registration will be $500.

The registration covers a light breakfast both mornings and lunch both days. In addition, all summit attendees are invited to attend an awards reception Feb. 20, during which the 2012 Sage Award Winner for environmental excellence, Gat Creek Furniture, will be honored.

A limited number of rooms are available at the Marriott SouthPark at the discounted group rate of $150 until Jan. 29. Attendees are urged to contact the hotel at (800) 228-9290 or (704) 364-8220 for reservations, requesting the AHFA group rate.

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