San Francisco, California – A programme called the Safer Sofa Foam Exchange is offering to replace flame-retarded foam in furniture with what the Green Science Policy Institute (GSPI) describes as a “new option for avoiding flame-retardant chemicals."
The initiative follows the state’s new TB-117-2013 furnishings ‘smolder standard for fabric’ flammability which comes into effect at the start of next year, as previously reported at Utech-polyurethane.com. The move effectively cancels the requirement for fabric-upholstered furniture to pass an open flame resistance test.
GSPI director Arlene Blum said her organisation considers non-flame retarded foam safer than foam with flame retardant because the "fire performance of both flame retarded foam and non-flame retarded foam is dependent on the size and conditions of the fire as well as on the composition and density of the foam."
According to Blum, studies have shown that foam manufactured to meet California's former furniture flammability regulation - the TB 117 - "did not provide a significant fire safety benefit compared to non-flame retarded foam when used in typical upholstered furniture."
She said that because fires start on the outside fabric covering, flame retardant chemicals added to foam inside furniture at levels demanded by TB117 "do not prevent ignition once the fabric has ignited."
Blum's focus is halogenated and phosphate flame retardant chemicals added to the foam - those additives which secured materials' TB117-adherence she said - but are "not chemically bonded to the foam" and, she claims "have been shown to continuously migrate out and consequently humans become exposed through hand to mouth contact with dust particles."
According to Blum, many furniture flame retardants "lack adequate health information while others that have been well-studied are linked to adverse health outcomes including endocrine disruption, cancer as well as reproductive, immune and developmental impairment."
Blum denies there is any benefit to consumers from TB117-standard flame retarded foam because it "does not increase significantly fire safety and may increase fire toxicity.