On January 22, 2019, California’s Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation repealed Technical Bulletin 113 (TB 133), which set standards for flammability for upholstered seating in public spaces. The action was praised by leading furniture manufacturers as well as some safety advocacy groups.
The repeal was prompted by two factors. First, TB 133, “The Flammability Test Procedure for Seating Furniture for Use in Public Occupancies,” was established in 1991, but has been superseded by the revised TB-117-2013 (an updated version of the previous flammability standard, TB-117). The repeal was seen as necessary since the two measures overlap and may conflict to some extent. Moreover, when it was implemented, TB 133 introduced an “open flame” test deemed so stringent that manufacturers would add flame retardants to the products in order to ensure that the products passed the test. Proponents of the repeal claimed that organohalogen flame retardants that were used to comply with TB 133 exposed consumers to serious health risks.
TB 117-2013 bans the use of open flame tests for various components of furniture upholstery, including filling materials, such as flexible polyurethane foam. The standards set forth in TB 117-2013 for flammability for furniture in public spaces include smolder tests for fabric, filling, decking and barriers in lieu of open flame tests. Under the regulation, each component is tested in an assembly with standard fabric or foam. It is believed that nearly 85% of the furniture on the market already satisfies the standards in TB 117-2013.
The furniture manufacturing industry overwhelmingly welcomed the revocation of TB 133. The Business and Institutional Manufacturers Association had advocated for the measure’s repeal for many years. The organization became heavily involved in pushing the repeal as it collaborated with firefighters, environmentalists, government agencies, and other organizations. In contrast, representatives of the flame-retardant industry denounced the move as detrimental to the safety of consumers in light of the fact that upholstered furniture carries one of the greatest risks of fire among consumer products. The North American Flame Retardant Alliance stated that repealing the open flame test would “reduce fire safety by weakening the fire performance requirements.”
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