Bedclothes Flammability a Burning Issue

Time dwindling for industry input

Carole Sloan, February 15, 2005

New York — Home textiles suppliers and retailers have until March 14 to file comments that can help shape upcoming federal standards for open flame ignition of bedclothes.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on Jan. 13 — the first step in a three-part process that will create flammability regulations covering sheets, mattress pads, blankets, comforters, pillows, quilts and decorative pillows used on beds.

“This is an issue that’s on top of us. It’s not going away,” said Frank Foley, president of the Home Fashion Products Association and president and CEO of CHF Industries.

The association discussed the potential regulations and the industry’s involvement at a workshop following the HFPA’s annual meeting here last week.

Top-of-bed products, said Allyson Tenney, textiles technologist, directorate for engineering sciences and project manager for CPSC, “are the first to ignite in 80 percent of fires involving mattresses and bedding.”

Before the regulations are finalized, CPSC is required to assess a number of factors that would impact the feasibility of regulations. These include the cost/benefits factor to both suppliers and consumers that would result from regulations, the economic impact on small businesses and the toxicity of flame-retardant treatments, as well as environmental and other technical factors.

Robert Leo, HFPA counsel, noted that the CPSC will accept voluntary standards offered by a properly authorized industry body, adding that individual members of the industry must throw their weight behind such an effort for it to have any effect.

“We need input (from companies in the industry) on what the costs will be,” Leo said, noting that estimates don’t need to be exact to the penny. He recommended that suppliers have their technical divisions examine the recently enacted standard for mattresses as well as the proposed California flammability standard for filled top-of-bed products.

If the CPSC determines to continue the rulemaking proceeding — and Leo told HFPA members it likely would — the agency will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) containing proposed regulations along with any alternatives the commission has considered.

At last week’s meeting, Carolyn Jennings, HFPA executive director, alerted members that California’s new flammability standards for filled bedding will soon be finalized and warned that the industry is running out of time to comment on that state’s policy, which is often more strict than federal standards. Further, while the federal government will weigh cost/benefit considerations in setting its standard, California does not.

She also noted that when California’s tougher new flammability standards for mattresses went into effect a few weeks ago, agents were combing factories and retail outlets immediately, and pulling non-compliant products off the floor.

One area in which California needs guidance pertains to the supply chain cycle, Leo added. “They need to know how to set the dates for how long (products sold in prior to the new standard) stay on the shelves.”

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