The foam used in upholstered furniture can be another environmental concern if it’s treated with flame retardants. Until recently, the only way to meet the flammability requirements of the California Bureau of Home Furnishings Technical Bulletin 117 was to use flame-retardant treated foam. “The problem with that is that flame retardants are not molecularly bonded when they attach to the foam. Over time the chemicals in the foam migrate, get into the air and settle on the floor,” says Carole Winterhalter, textile technologist at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center. Winterhalter took part in a 2011 peer-reviewed study on the topic, conducted by biophysical chemist Arlene Blum, founder and director of the Green Science Policy Institute, Berkeley, Calif.
The study’s findings contributed to the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation’s revision of TB117 for better fire safety without the need for flame-retardant chemicals. The replacement standard, TB117-2013, went into effect as of January 1, 2014.
For more information or to read the full study, published in Fire Safety Science, visit greensciencepolicy.org.