The California Legislature has approved a bill (S.B. 1019) that, if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), would require upholstered-furniture manufacturers to disclose on already-required tags whether the product contains added flame retardant chemicals and to maintain sufficient documentation to show if flame retardant chemicals were added to a covered product or component. If enacted, the requirements will take effect January 1, 2015, when manufacturers must comply with a new smoldering-test standard technical bulletin (117-2013).

According to the bill’s findings, since 1975, California has required that materials used in upholstered furniture, such as polyurethane foam, be able to withstand a small, open flame for 12 seconds. After flame retardant chemical use became widespread to meet the requirement, women and children in California were found to have “much higher levels of toxic flame retardant chemicals” in their bodies than comparable populations elsewhere. Citing studies that purportedly link “exposure to flame retardants to cancer, lower IQs and attention problems, male infertility, male birth defects, and early puberty in girls,” and noting that Technical Bulletin 117-2013 now allows furniture manufacturers to meet a smoldering standard that does not require the use of flame retardant chemicals, the legislature determined that consumers want informed choice about their purchases and that this measure will give consumers clear information about the furniture they buy.

Part of the required disclosure would state that (i) “California has updated the flammability standard and determined that the fire safety requirements for this product can be met without adding flame retardant chemicals” and (ii) “The state has identified many flame retardant chemicals as being known to, or strongly suspected of, adversely impacting human health or development.” The bill would allow the assessment of fines for failure to maintain the required documentation or to supply the documentation to the state on request. It would also establish a testing protocol to ensure that label statements are accurate. Additional fines could be imposed if the state finds that a product labeled as containing no added flame retardant chemicals actually contains them.