Occupational Health & Safety

Industry trade associations wanted a reduced ignition propensity, or fire safe, cigarette used.

CPSC Proposes New Cigarette for Mattress Testing

Industry trade associations wanted a reduced ignition propensity, or fire safe, cigarette used, but the commission said using one could reduce the fire safety effectiveness of the testing standard.

In a sense, the march of progress is affecting the Consumer Product Safety Commission's standard for the flammability of mattresses and mattress pads -- the ignition source cigarette it specifies, an unfiltered Pall Mall, must be replaced because its manufacturer announced in 2008 the cigarette would be discontinued. CPSC proposed a replacement Monday and said it will not specify a reduced ignition propensity (RIP), or fire safe, cigarette in the standard because using one could reduce the standard's fire safety effectiveness.

"The extent of fire safety gains due to RIP cigarettes is uncertain," the commission's Federal Register notice said. "Under these circumstances, specifying a RIP cigarette as the ignition source in the Standard could reduce the level of fire safety provided by the Standard."

The standard was enacted in 1972, before the commission existed. It specifies a pass/fail test of the ignition resistance of a mattress or mattress pad when exposed to lighted cigarettes placed at specified locations on the surface of the mattress or pad. An unfiltered Pall Mall cigarette was the chosen ignition source because it was identified as the most severe smoldering ignition source, according to CPSC.

The proposed replacement is the National Institute of Standards and Technology's standard reference material (SRM) cigarette, which was developed at the commission's request. One comment said they are too expensive for small manufacturers, such as upholstery fabric manufacturers. CPSC estimated SRM cigarettes cost as much as $245 per carton and will increase total annual testing costs for mattresses by about $70,000, or about 10 percent.

The SRM cigarette was designed to be equivalent to the original test cigarette and was developed to enhance repeatability of test results without changing the level of fire safety provided by the standard, the commission said.

CPSC says the most recent available data for mattress and bedding fires are from 2005-2007: an estimated average of 2,100 annual fires causing 150 deaths, 350 injuries, and $57 million in property losses.

Comments are due by Jan. 18, 2011; use Docket No. CPSC-2010-0105 and submit them via www.regulations.gov.

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