New California Legislation Bans Toxic Flame-Retardant Chemicals

California recently rewrote its regulations concerning flammability requirements for the upholstered furniture industry – a change that is affecting medical furniture manufacturers across the country.

The new law, which aims to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals people are exposed to, went into effect on Jan. 1. It supersedes the state’s previous regulations on flame-retardant chemicals, especially on furniture and mattresses for juveniles. Also covered are furnishings designed for adults that can also be used by children.

While other states have similar laws, California tends to set the standard for such requirements, and manufacturers that sell products nationally need to comply with California regulations.

The Evolution of California’s AB-2998

The impetus for the new law stretches back more than 40 years to groundbreaking legislation designed to make upholstered furniture safer in the event of fire.

In 1975, in response to the public’s demand for standardized flammability requirements in the upholstered furniture industry, the California legislature established Technical Bulletin 117 (TB-117). Along with CAL-133, which provided standards for furnishings used in public/clinical settings, TB-117 required upholstered furniture to meet flammability tests, including a 12-second, open-flame exposure of interior foam components.

But the chemicals that delayed ignition, including polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) to organophosphorous, posed health risks. An update to TB-117 in 2013 restricted the use of some chemicals, but many people believed that the update wasn’t sufficient to protect public health.

In 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB-2998, which replaces both TB-117 and CAL-133. It further restricts flame-retardant chemicals and potentially dangerous manufacturing methods used in a range of items, including juvenile products and mattresses, futons, casings for electronic components, adult mattress such as day beds and roll-away-beds and the threads or fibers used for stitching mattress components together.

What the New Law Entails

Under the new law, furniture and mattress manufacturers must complete surveys – stricter than CAL-133’s qualifying processes – identifying certain information about mattresses and components covered by AB-2998, including:

  • A list of fibers and materials used in each component.
  • The identity of flame-retardant chemicals used in amounts over 1,000 parts per million.
  • The method of incorporating the chemical into the product.
  • The percentage of new mattresses (in the U.S.) that use each component.
  • The types of mattresses with which the component is used, including memory foam, gel foam, polyurethane foam, fiber, latex foam and air bladders.

The new law also prohibits a larger range of chemicals than CAL-133, including:

  • Halogenated, organophosphorous, organonitrogen or nanoscale flame retardants.
  • Any flame-retardant identified as “designated chemical” in Section 105440 of the California Health and Safety Code.
  • Any chemical listed on the Washington State Department of Ecology’s list of Chemicals of High Concern to Children.

“For safety’s sake, Custom Comfort is in compliance with the January 1, 2020 guidelines set forth by AB-2998 and is currently offering medical furniture items that meet California’s new law,” said Chad Dunbar, Custom Comfort vice president. “Additionally, we have always and will continue to offer TB-117-compliant products with the option of CAL-133 protection. Please contact our customer service team for more details and pricing.”

About Custom Comfort Medtek

Custom Comfort Medtek has been manufacturing specialty medical furniture and related products since 1987. Located in Central Florida, the company prides itself on designing products to meet a variety of clinical needs for customers worldwide. Visit the Custom Comfort Medtek website to request a product catalog or contact the company directly at 800-749-0933.

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