Impact of Fire
Fire is the third leading cause of accidental death and injury in the United States. During the past 20 years, fire has claimed between 5,000 and 8,000 lives annually and resulted in 30-60,000 injuries annually. About 75 percent of those fires occur in residential homes and buildings. The combination of home furnishings and smokers accounts for nearly 30 percent of all U.S. fire deaths. Fire and smoke is the number one cause of death for children 5 and younger.
Many residential fires ignite in upholstered furniture or bedding. Typically, burning smoking materials, mainly cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, are accidentally dropped onto an item of furniture and remain smoldering unnoticed. Hours later, smoldering combustion erupts into flame billowing heat and toxic gas. The fire then spreads to carpets, walls, ceilings or any combustible material. Carbon monoxide poisoning, resulting from a lack of oxygen is the most likely cause of death in a fire. Smoke and heat simply overcome victims before they can escape.
Home fires can also occur when an open flame source is present. Open flame sources include matches, lighters, candles, and gas stoves. Fires ignited by open flame sources can spread rapidly.
The benefit of flame retardant treatments whether applied at the manufacturer or on location in your home or office, is that it may afford you those precious seconds needed to save yourself and your love ones in even a less than catastrophic set of circumstances. If the fabric's flammability is retarded, the production of smoke and its safety issues are also minimized, and that can be critical.
Considering Flammability When Buying
Before buying upholstered furniture, bedding or textile products, you may want to consider the relative flammability properties of several alternative products. Comparisons can be made based on fabric composition, fabric weight, and fabric weave. The primary flammability hazard with textile products such as clothing, sleepwear, drapes and curtains is an accidental exposure to an open flame. Fabrics composed of cellulosic or "natural" fibers such as cofton, rayon, or linen will generally be less hazardous than thermoplastic or "synthetic" fibers such as polyester, olefin, acrylic, or nylon when exposed to an open flame. Thermoplastic fibers melt and can adhere to the skin causing severe skin burns. Lightweight fabrics are more likely to ignite and burn faster than heavyweight fabrics. Generally, a tightly woven fabric will burn slower than an open loosly woven fabric.
The primary flammability hazard associated with textile products such as upholstered furniture and bedding is accidental exposure to a smoldering ignition source, usually a carelessly dropped cigarette. Cover fabrics composed of thermoplastic or "synthetic" fibers will generally be less likely to smolder than cellulosic or "natural" cover fabrics. As the weight of the cover fabric increases, the more likely it will protect against smoldering combustion.
Many fabrics are a combination of cellulosic and thermoplastic fibers. The greater the percentage of thermoplastic fibers, the less likely the fabric will support smoldering combustion. These guidelines can help you be an informed consumer about textile product flammability. You must always be extremely careful with these products near any possible source of fire. Recognizing that a hazard exists can help you avoid dangerous situations.
California Flammability Regulations
In the early 1970s, recognizing the significant fire hazard of home furnishings, the California Legislature enacted law requiring all mattresses and upholstered furniture offered for sale in the state to be fire retardant. The law also required the Bureau of Home Furnishings to establish flammability standards for mattresses and upholstered furniture.
In addition to home furnishings, California has flammability regulations for small tents and awnings under the jurisdiction of the State Fire Marshal's Office. A closer look at various California flammability regulations follows.
Regulations adopted by the Bureau require all mattresses to meet the requirements set forth in the U.S. Standard for Flammability of Mattresses FF-4-72. This regulation requires mattresses to be cigarette resistant. DOES NOT MEAN FIREPROOF. Mattresses that meet this standard can still be ignited by open flame. A common example would be children playing with matches. Labels are required to be permanently attached to mattresses describing their flammability. There are two possible labels.
This mattress is This product contains
The label on the left is true for all mattresses and may be attached to any mattresses in California. Attachment of the label is voluntary. The notice on the right must be attached to any mattress which contains polyurethane foam made without fire retardant additives which would reduce the chance of combustion from an open flame source.
Bureau regulations require all filling materials used in furniture to be modified with chemical fire retardants to reduce the possibility of combustion and forbids the use of cover fabrics which are classified as highly or dangerously flammable. Consumers must be aware, however, that fire resistant DOES NOT MEAN FIRE PROOF. Fire retardant furniture will ignite and burn under certain circumstances.
Every piece of upholstered furniture offered for sale in California must have a flammability label permanently attached. There are four possible types of labels, three of which are common on furniture you would likely purchase for your home:
ONLY THE RESILIENT FILLING MATERIALS CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE MEET CALIFORNIA BUREAU OF HOME FURNISHINGS FLAMMABILITY REQUIREMENTS. CARE SHOULD BE EXERCISED NEAR OPEN FLAME OR WITH BURNING CIGARETTES.
Flammability Label A indicates that furniture is:
· Filled with flame resistant cushioning materials.
· Filled with smolder resistant cushioning materials.
· Covered with a fabric that is not highly or dangerously flammable.
Flammability Label B indicates that the furniture:
· Meets all the requirements of the type A flammability level, and, in addition:
· The finished furniture piece is resistant to ignition from smoldering cigarettes.
Certain types of furniture have been exempted from the bureau's flammability requirements. They include:
· Furniture intended solely for outdoor use.
· Furniture manufactured solely for recreational use or physical fitness purposes.
· Furniture containing less than a half inch of filling material and in which a horizontal and vertical surface do not meet. All furniture exempt from the flammability requirements must have a label with the wording:
THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT MEET CALIFORNIA BUREAU OF HOME FURNISHINGS FLAMMABILITY REQUIREMENTS TECHNICAL BULLETIN 117. CARE SHOULD BE EXERCISED NEAR OPEN FLAME OR WITH BURNING CIGARETTES.
Seating Furniture in Public Occupancies
All upholstered furniture intended for use in public occupancies must comply with a more stringent flammability requirement known as Technical Bulletin 133. Public occupancies include hotels, motels, hospitals, theaters, day care facilities, auditoriums, prisons and other public buildings where 10 or more pieces of seating furniture are located. The standard is a full-scale open-flame test of a complete piece of furniture. Individual components such as fabric or fillings are not tested. The furniture is exposed to an open flame for a prolonged period and must essentially extinguish itself when the flame is removed. Furniture that meets this requirement must have attached a flammabiltiy label with the wording:
THIS ARTICLE IS MANUFACTURED FOR USE IN PUBLIC OCCUPANCIES AND MEETS THE FLAMMABILITY REQUIREMENTS OF CALIFORNIA BUREAU OF HOME FURNISHINGS TECHNICAL BULLETIN 133. CARE SHOULD BE EXERCISED NEAR OPEN FLAME OR WITH BURNING CIGARETTES.
Mattresses in Public Occupancies
In October 1992, the Bureau published Technical Bulletin 129, a full-scale open flame test for mattresses intended for use in public occupancies such as health care facilities, college dormitories, hotels and motels, old age convalescent and board and care homes. The test determines the burning behavior of mattresses subjected to a flaming ignition source. Compliance with the standard is voluntary. A mattress that can pass this test is an extremely fire-safe product.
Manufacturers of insulation products are required to place a statement on labeling certifying their products meet California standards for fire resistance. The Bureau randomly samples insulation products and subjects them to smoldering combustion and open flame tests to ensure products purchased by consumers comply with fire safety standards. The label must have on it the statement "MEETS CALIFORNIA QUALITY STANDARDS."
Fire Marshal's Office
Fire safety regulations for many products used by consumers fall under the jurisdiction of the State Fire Marshal's Office. These include small tents, for use by 10 or less people; sheets, pillow cases, and gowns for patient use in hospitals; and drapes, curtains and wall coverings in public buildings. For more information about fire safety standards for these products, contact the State Fire Marshal's Office at (916) 427-4161.
Federal Flammability Regulations
In 1953, the U.S. Congress passed the Flammable Fabrics Act. This represented the first legislation addressing the flammability of a consumer product. The Flammable Fabrics Act has evolved to encompass a wide range of clothing and interior furnishings.
All fabrics used for clothing purposes must meet an open flame ignition standard. This standard removes highly flammable clothing from the marketplace.
All children's sleepwear, size 0 - 4, must pass a severe open flame test. The flammability protection must be durable through fifty washings and dryings. It is very important to follow the laundering instructions provided with the sleepwear. Improper care can cause a loss in the flame retardant properties of the sleepwear.
Carpets and Rugs
This standard is for the typical floor coverings in your home. It includes wall-to-wall carpeting, room rugs, area rugs, and throw rugs. The carpet or rug must pass an open flame test.
This standard is for your mattresses and mattress pad. The test requires these articles to be cigarette resistant. It is designed to protect against accidental fires caused by careless smoking in bed.
Other Flammability Standards
The sleeping bag industry has a voluntary flammability standard for sleeping bags. An open flame ignition source ignites the sleeping bag and the rate of burning is measured. If a sleeping bag meets this voluntary standard the manufacturer will normally indicate this on package labeling. The standard is known as CPAI-75.
There are no regulations concerning the flammability characteristics of drapes, curtains, bedspreads, comforters, blankets, and sheets, intended for residential use. Although these products are not regulated, the manufacturer may produce some products with special flammability properties. The fabric composition can be a factor, as some fibers such as wool and modacrylic are inherently less flammable than other fibers.
The Bureau of Home Furnishings
The Bureau was established in 1911 to enforce the Home Furnishings Act. Law concerning the flammability properties of mattresses and upholstered furniture was added to the Act in 1972. In 1985, the Thermal Insulation Program was transferred to the Bureau along with the authority to regulate the flammability of insulation products.
The Bureau has an extensive 20,000 square-foot laboratory for testing and research. The laboratory tests products obtained by bureau inspectors and law enforcement agencies, or submitted by consumers, the industry or government agencies to determine if they are in compliance with flammability law. Test results are the basis for disciplinary action against purveyors of illegal products. In addition, research and development in the area of flammability is ongoing, resulting in new and improved standards and regulations designed to increase protection to consumers.
What the Bureau CAN Do For You
The Bureau can:
· Refer a case to law enforcement authorities if necessary.
· Withhold from sale and confiscate any product not complying with the Bureau's flammability laws and regulations.
What the Bureau CANNOT Do For You
There are times when the Bureau is asked to do things that are outside its authority to address. The Bureau cannot:
· Recommend certain products or stores.
· Become involved in civil litigation.
· Provide a list of rated products.
· The Bureau is only concerned that products meet minimum flammability performance standards.
· Give legal advice.
· Collect refunds, reimbursements or other monies owed you.
How to Contact the Bureau
If you have a complaint concerning the flammability of mattresses, upholstered furniture, insulation or other consumer products, contact the Department of Consumer Affairs complaint line at 1-800-952-5210. Trained complaint staff will address your problem or provide you with information and referrals if the complaint does not involve a violation of law. Questions may also be directed to the Bureau, by dialing (916) 574-2041 (Sacramento) or (213) 897-4408 (Los Angeles).