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From Home Furnishing Business

AHFA and NAHFA Oppose Fire Retardant Label Bill

The American Home Furnishings Alliance and the North American Home Furnishings Association will oppose a bill proposing to dictate point-of-purchase signage in California home furnishings stores at a State Senate committee hearing here this week.

Senator Mark Leno proposed the measure (SB 1019) last week in an effort to provide California consumers with easily accessible information on whether upholstered furniture contains flame retardant chemicals. 

Last year California adopted a new fire safety standard--Technical Bulletin 117-2013. The new standard requires upholstered furniture to pass a smolder test to ensure that it is resistant to ignition from a burning cigarette--the number one cause of household fires involving upholstered furniture.

The smolder test replaces an open-flame test that California required for more than 35 years. The state’s new standard does not prohibit flame retardant chemicals, but the smolder test can be passed without them.

Senator Leno’s legislation proposes a lengthy addition to the law label that is currently required on all upholstered furniture offered for sale in California. After stating that the product meets California’s furniture fire safety standard, manufacturers would have to indicate whether the product “contains added flame retardant chemicals” or “contains NO added flame retardant chemicals.” This would be done by checking a box next to the appropriate statement.

Leno also proposes that the law label include the following statements: “The Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation found that flame retardant chemicals in furniture do not provide a meaningful fire safety benefit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such flame retardant chemicals can migrate into air and house dust where people can be exposed to them.”

In addition to lengthening the law label with this required “flame retardant chemical statement,” Leno proposes that manufacturers of upholstered furniture be required to provide point-of-sale signage with this same statement for each product shipped to California retailers.

Stores would be required to display the sign “next to the price or description of the covered product.” Furthermore, Leno wants the sign to be “sized and placed so as to remain clear and conspicuous to consumers.”

Catalog retailers would have to place the message on each page containing a description of an upholstered product and Internet retailers would need to place the message “in close proximity to the price” on each Web page that contains a description of an upholstered product.

“Although we support the intent of the legislation to disclose if a piece of upholstered furniture does or does not contain added flame retardant chemicals, SB 1019 goes well beyond this intent and is unworkable as written,” read a joint statement from the associations. Additional disclosures beyond the basic presence or absence of FR chemicals will only serve “to alarm and confuse consumers without any scientific merit.”

The joint statement, which was submitted on behalf of AHFA, NAHFA and the Polyurethane Foam Association, further asserts that the point-of-sale requirement puts the burden of compliance on retailers, who have little control over what individual products contain.

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