Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Flame retardant (FR) supplier Chemtura has released the findings of a survey of nearly 2,000 people questioned on the use of FRs in furniture and upholstery.
The survey is part of a concerted Chemtura campaign to persuade Californian legislators to re-examine their modification of TB-117, which companies must comply with by January, 2015.
TB-117 is the de facto US standard specifying the flammability resistance of upholstery foam in the US.
As part of this campaign Chemtura filed the lawsuit with Sacremento Superior Court, as previously reported at UTECH-polyurethane.com and legal proceedings continue.
Chemtura’s move was to issue details of its survey, entitled Consumer Demand for Flame Retardants in Furniture, which is based on the survey’s findings.
Chemtura said the survey revealed “...Consumers are more than twice as likely to want to purchase furniture protected by flame retardants than unprotected furniture" and “...by a 4:1 ratio, they support the use of FRs in furniture.”
Chemtura said the online survey showed 44% of respondents expressing strong support for FRs in furniture, 39% agreed they somewhat support them, 13% were somewhat opposed and 4% indicated a strong opposition to their inclusion in furniture fabric.
A statement on California's regulation change was pitched to survey participants. It read:
“Recently, a directive by the California Governor changed the decade-long standard for fire safety in the US. The new standard still requires a furniture cushion to not catch fire when exposed to a lit cigarette, but no longer requires the cushion to not catch fire when exposed to a small open flame.
“Because the new standard can be passed without the addition of flame retardants, furniture manufacturers no longer need to add flame retardants to their products.
“The California Governor did this because he believes the potential risk of FRs in furniture to human health and the environment outweigh the benefits of furniture that meet the previous high standard of fire safety.”
Participants were asked to express the level of support they felt for FRs after reading that statement.
According to Chemtura, 43% felt strong favourability for FRs and the same number viewed them somewhat favourably – leaving a maximum of 14% of respondents to express strong or somewhat opposition to the inclusion of FRs in furniture.
The chemical supplier also said its survey found that favourability and trust drops by half when a furniture manufacturer decides to discontinue the use of FRs. Chemtura said its report showed that “consumers understand the benefits of flame retardants and expect furniture manufacturers to use them to ensure furniture safety.”
Chemtura said it was not involved in the analysis of the data or the findings and that this work was administered by public relations firm Edelman-Berland between 26 and 30 June, 2014.
Chemtura added in a statement: “As an indirect supplier to large and small manufacturers of upholstered furniture, we've seen that one of the major issues facing the furniture industry today is how to ensure the fire safety of upholstered furniture products.
“For furniture manufacturers, the decision to continue or discontinue using flame retardants to increase the fire resistance of the foam used in upholstered furniture is a significant one.
“In recent conversations with our partners in manufacturing and retail, we’ve heard frustrations that there isn’t any comprehensive information about what consumers want,” the comment concluded.
When Chemtura began its court case against California state legislature in January, the company’s former senior vp, industrial engineered products Anne Noonan said that California state’s revised rules weaken its landmark fire safety standard for upholstered furniture.
“This lawsuit is necessary to obtain judicial review of TB 117-2013 and the authority of the California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (Bureau) to ignore a key requirement in the revised fire safety standard effective January 1, 2014.”
“The revised rules require furniture makers to pass only a cigarette smoulder test and eliminates a vital requirement… that all filling material used in upholstered furniture pass an open flame test to replicate a candle, match or lighter flame.”
She also pointed out that the smouldering cigarette is a diminishing fire threat while flaming ignition sources remain significant.
Noonan went on: “According to fire safety scientists, if left to stand, California’s revised, weakened fire safety standard could tragically lead to more fires and more injuries, deaths and property damage nationwide.”
Noonan recently announced her intention to resign as Chemtura's senior vice president of Industrial Engineered Products to pursue another opportunity.
As part of its campaign to modify Cal TB-117, Chemtura has accused the California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation of ignoring its own advice. Chemtura has pointed out that in 2008, the Bureau stated: “The Bureau strongly believes that any national furniture flammability standard must address the typical scenario of open flame ignition in upholstered furniture.” The California Bureau believed then that “the seriousness of such hazard cannot be overstated.”
Chemtura summed up its case: “We are seeking a judgment that will set aside the revised standard – a standard that does not provide protection from open flame ignition sources, as mandated by law. Our hope is that the court will throw out the revised standard and that the Bureau will develop a new standard that addresses both smoulder and open flame ignition sources.
“Sadly, fire safety has taken a wrong turn in California and its impact will be felt by families nationwide unless we can reverse this misguided and unlawful decision,” the company said.
Chemtura also released an open letter to Governor Jerry Brown.