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Flame standards debate burns on

Karen Galindo, Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, December 8, 2003

While California's rule-making on mattress flammability standards is now in its final stages, home textiles suppliers are still working with the California Department of Consumer Affairs and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission on the issues of decorative fabrics, top-of-the-bed products and down and feather specifically.

Interestingly, there is little cross-pollination among home furnishings product groups in their approach to the flammability issues that impact the entire marketplace.

The issues are further complicated by the change in the governor's office in California as well as the retirement of Senator Fritz Hollings at the end of the current Congressional session. Newly-elected Governor Arnold Schwarzennager halted pending legislation for 180 days, but at the same time there is a time cap on rule making for the CDCA. The clock is also ticking in Washington, where Hollings sponsored a bill that would require federal regs for flammability of mattresses and upholstery within 90 days of the bill's enactment.

A unified point of view has emerged among one group of players: decorative fabrics producers. They are impacted by potential regulations for upholstered furniture, top of the bed products, and fabrics sold by the yard at retail and through designers.

At the federal level, "things are moving ahead in a pretty positive mood, though nothing is final," said Richard Taffet, of Thelan Reid & Priest, counsel for both the Decorative Fabrics Association and the Textile Producers & Suppliers Association.

"There is a growing consensus on all sides, including [among] the fire marshals about the Quaker-led coalition that has made a proposal to the CPSC regarding the fabric requirements and testing standards. The important thing is that there would be the possibility of using a barrier fabric for upholstered furniture if the fabric did not meet the standards," Taffet explained.

Comments on the flammability issues are due to the CPSC on Dec. 22, Taffet added.

Representing down and feather suppliers, Steve Uretsky, president of Allied Feather, said it remains unclear what will be required of down and feather companies if new regulations are issued for mattresses (TB 603) and/or top-of-bed products (TB 604).

"For down and feathers, there's no issue of flammability. They don't burn," Uretsky noted. "But the California legislation does not allow the CDCA to exclude any segment of the business."

For down and feathers, Bob Leo of Meeks & Sheppard, counsel to the Home Fashion Products Association, expects a washability standard for cover fabrics. "The case will have to withstand a certain number of washes" before the flammability deterrent disappears, he said.

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