CPSC Issues Residential Upholstered Furniture Flammability Standard

The Consumer Product Safety Commission proposed a new flammability standard for residential upholstered furniture yesterday, giving manufacturers the choice of using coverings that are sufficiently smolder resistant to meet a cigarette ignition performance test or place fire barriers that meet smoldering and open-flame resistance tests between the cover fabric and interior filling materials.

The rule has taken a while; the National Association of State Fire Marshals petitioned for it 15 years ago, asking that CPSC adopt three existing California standards. When an advance notice of proposed rulemaking emerged in 2003, the commission asked for comments on how a standard could best address all types of upholstered furniture fire risks, and it received only 13 written comments. Still, by 2007 the proposal focused mainly on preventing smoldering ignitions and reducing the need for flame retardant chemicals, and that is the standard CPSC issued yesterday.

Assuming this goes forward as proposed, an estimated 1,600 manufacturers (including importers) of upholstered furniture will be required to certify that their articles of upholstered furniture comply with the standard and to keep records demonstrating compliance with it. Upholstered furniture is defined in the proposed standard as articles of interior seating furnishing intended for indoor use in a home or other residential occupancy that consist in whole or in part of resilient cushioning materials (such as foam, batting, or related materials) covered by fabric or related materials; and are constructed with a contiguous upholstered seat and back or arms. Included are chairs, sofas, motion furniture, sleep sofas, home office furniture customarily offered for sale through retailers or otherwise available for residential use, and upholstered furniture intended for use in dormitories or other residential occupancies. Excluded are patio chairs and other furniture intended solely for outdoor use; furniture without contiguous upholstered seating and backs and/or arm surfaces, such as ottomans, pillows or pads that are not sold with the article of furniture; commercial or industrial furniture not offered for sale through retailers or not otherwise available for residential use; furniture intended or sold solely for use in hotels and other short-term lodging and hospitality establishments; futons; flip chairs; the mattress portions of sleep sofas; and non-furniture infant or juvenile products, such as walkers, strollers, high chairs, or pillows.

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