ARLINGTON, VA. — Hoping to avert being tagged as the villain in political debates about upholstered furniture fires, the Polyurethane Foam Association wants the industry to launch a much bigger advertising effort about the material's benefits. PFA officials said they have asked the Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry and its wealthy parent, the American Plastics Council, for help but have not made a specific proposal. APC, based in Arlington, runs the industry's $20 million advertising effort.
PFA also approached another unidentified industry group asking for help, said Robert Luedeka, director of PFA's public relations effort and senior vice president for J.P. Hogan & Co., a communications firm in Knoxville, Tenn.
PFA spends less than $100,000 a year on its program, and officials said it is too small to run a larger advertising effort on its own.
"How you pay for that is a big issue," Luedeka said. "It is a small industry but a big job."
PFA officials disclosed their plans at an association meeting May 18 in Arlington. API officials declined comment, and APC officials could not be reached.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is expected to come out with a new furniture flammability standard, possibly as early as this summer, and a firefighters trade group wants labels warning consumers that PU foam is a fire hazard. Several state legislatures also are considering updates to their standards, PFA officials said.
Polyurethane industry officials argue that standards should consider human behavior and all components of furniture in a fire.
"What we are concerned about is people focusing on foam to the exclusion of other aspects of the fire debate," said Gregory Davis, PFA president and vice president of Wm. T. Burnett & Co.'s foam division in Statesville, N.C.
Luedeka said PFA is developing new communications materials, including an analysis comparing fire safety under California's tough furniture flammability standard with the rest the country.
Meanwhile, another group has petitioned CPSC to adopt tougher mattress flammability standards, said James McIntyre, a Washington lawyer who represents PFA, and legislation has been introduced in Congress.
In addition, Louisiana is studying whether to regulate upholstered furniture. Connecticut, New Hampshire and Michigan all have upholstered furniture flammability legislation pending, he said.