The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standards Council in April voted to halt standards development of NFPA 277, Standard Methods of Tests for Evaluating Fire and Ignition Resistance of Upholstered Furniture Using a Flaming Ignition Source.
The vote effectively halts further development of an open flame standard for testing the flammability of furniture, a standard that would have allowed for the continued use of large amounts of flame retardant chemicals. Growing evidence shows that fire fighters are particularly susceptible to exposure to toxic flame retardants both on the fire ground and back in the firehouse. While chemical manufacturers claim their products were intended to make furniture less susceptible to flame, the IAFF has long argued that these chemicals do little to slow fires and, in fact, pose a greater danger to human health because of their toxicity.
The IAFF has demanded that any standard, policy decision or law regarding flammability standards address the health and safety of fire fighters. The IAFF maintains representation on the NFPA Fire Test Technical Committee and, over the last four and a half years has participated in the NFPA standards process, providing technical advice and testifying on behalf of fire fighter safety – while the chemical industry has fought hard to ensure the continued widespread use of dangerous fire retardants. “The IAFF stood its ground on flame retardants, and in doing so convinced the NFPA to do the right thing by protecting fire fighters,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “But we know the chemical companies will never give up their aggressive support for these toxins, and we intend to stay in this fight.”
The IAFF is urging Congress to pass legislation (H.R. 4220), the Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act, which would require the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to adopt a federal flammability standard for upholstered furniture based on a California standard known as TB 117-2013. Supported by the IAFF, TB 117-2013 outlines performance standards and methods for testing the smolder resistance of cover fabric materials used in upholstered furniture, thus eliminating the need for flame retardants.