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AHFA Responds To Proposed Flame Retardant Chemical Ban

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A senior member of the California state legislature introduced legislation last week that would ban the use of halogenated flame retardants in products such as upholstered furniture, mattresses and bedding. “The flame retardant compounds used to treat fabrics and cushioning materials have been coming under increasing scrutiny as carcinogens and environmental toxins and have been banned or restricted in Europe” explains Andy Counts, chief executive officer of the American Home Furnishings Alliance. “California has been expected to address these chemicals, and other states are considering similar measures.” California Representative Mark Leno introduced legislation that directs the California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation to amend its current upholstered furniture regulation (TB117) to ensure that complying furniture can be made without the use of suspect chemicals. The legislation must undergo consideration by legislative committees as well as the two chambers of the legislature and then be signed by the Governor before it would become law. The initiative responds to a growing body of evidence that suggests halogenated compounds accumulate and persist in the ecosystem. “The primary impact on manufacturers of upholstered furniture would be changes in the formulation of flame-resistant polyurethane foam used for products shipped into California,” Counts explains. “AHFA is working in partnership with foam suppliers, regulators and environmental advocates to prepare for such an eventuality.” Several years ago the Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with Great Lakes Chemical Company (now Amerbrom) removed penta-bromodiphenyl ether, another widely used and effective flame retardant chemical, from the marketplace. AHFA’s vice president of environment, safety, health and standards, Bill Perdue, co-chaired a committee for the EPA’s “Design for the Environment” program that worked with key stakeholders to identify emerging, less toxic flame retardants to replace penta-bromodiphenyl ether. “We will urge the EPA to revisit this project in light of the new legislation so that non-halogenated alternatives can be evaluated,” says Counts. Environmental regulation of flame retardants and their impact on foam production will be discussed at the AHFA Flammability Workshop April 24-25 at the Sheraton Four Seasons in Greensboro, N.C. To register or receive additional information, call AHFA at 336/884-5000, ext. 100. The American Home Furnishings Alliance –located in High Point, N.C. and Washington, D.C. – is the largest association of home furnishings companies in the world and represents more than 250 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, as well as 225 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide.

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