logo

Chemtura files a legal challenge against Californian flammability standard

By: Jane Denny
Urethanes Technology International

January 21, 2014

Chemtura Corp. is seeking a judicial review of Californian lawmakers' decision to eliminate an open flame fire test from new regulations on the flammability of upholstered furniture.

The state's landmark smolder-only test — the TB 117-2013 standard — would become effective from the start of 2015. It poses a significant risk to consumers, the polyurethane additives Chemtura said in a news release.

As reported by Urethanes Technology International magazine earlier this year, Californian legislators proposed cancelling the requirement for foams to resist "open flame" ignition due to concerns over the potential for flame retardant chemicals to gradually migrate out of the foam.

Canceling the requirement for open flame resistance within furniture upholstery would prevent leakage of those chemicals into the environment.

Anne Noonan, senior vice president of industrial engineered products at Chemtura, said: "The revised rules require furniture makers to pass a cigarette 'smolder test' only.

The company claims that California's Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation has ignored the key requirement for upholstery to pass an "open flame" test too.

"It 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," added Noonan.

She said that the law if "left unchallenged… could tragically lead to more fires and more injuries, deaths and property damage nationwide."

The National Fire Protection Association has also lodged its objection to eliminating open-flame protection.

Although U.S. national statistics show that both smoldering cigarettes and open flames are significant sources of ignition, the relative fire threat from smoldering cigarettes continues to decline because of the significant drop in smoking and fire-safe cigarette laws, stated Chemtura. This fact emphasizes the importance of maintaining open-flame protection in a new or revised standard, the release said.

Chemtura has already written an open letter to California's Gov. Jerry Brown and collated some of the bureau's own evidence on the issue of open flame risk.

In 2008, the bureau stated that "any national furniture flammability standard must address the typical scenario of open flame ignition in upholstered furniture."