California governor directs state to revise furniture FR standards

Heath E. Combs, Maria Weiskott, June 19, 2012

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday directed state agencies to revise the state's nearly four decades old flammability standards for upholstered furniture.

The call comes in the wake of a four-part series on the dangers of fire retardant chemicals in the Chicago Tribune, and other news reports this year that have detailed $23 million that chemical industry interests have spent on lobbying efforts in California to keep the rules in place in recent years.

Brown directed the state's Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation to review Technical Bulletin 117, or TB 117, and recommended changes to reduce toxic flame retardants.

A press release from the governor's office said TB 117, which regulates how upholstered furniture must be made fire safe, will be updated to reflect modern manufacturing methods that can reduce the use of harmful chemicals.

Recent studies have shown that toxic chemicals in flame retardants may cause neurological and reproductive damage, reduced fertility, and in firefighters, elevated rates of cancer.

"Toxic flame retardants are found in everything from high chairs to couches and a growing body of evidence suggests that these chemicals harm human health and the environment," Brown said. "We must find better ways to meet fire safety standards by reducing and eliminating - wherever possible - dangerous chemicals."