The Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA), 15 U.S.C. 1191 et seq., was passed in 1953 in response to public concern over serious burn incidents involving brushed rayon high pile sweaters (referred to as "torch sweaters") and children's cowboy chaps which ignited easily and flash burned. The law prohibits the introduction into commerce of articles of wearing apparel and fabrics which are highly flammable. Wearing apparel means any costume or article of clothing intended to be worn by an individual, but it excludes hats, gloves and footwear.
The CPSC has adopted standards for the flammability of textiles, which are codified at 16 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1610. The regulations apply to all adult and children's wearing apparel with the exception of children's sleepwear, which must meet more stringent standards. There are also separate standards for mattresses and other home furnishings (e.g., carpeting).
The purpose of this FFA is to reduce the danger of injury and loss of life by providing a national standard for testing and rating the flammability of textiles and clothing for textile use and to discourage the use of highly flammable clothing textiles. The testing specified in Part 1610 separates fabrics into three classes of flammability. Class 3 fabrics are considered dangerously flammable and may not be used in clothing textiles or items of wearing apparel. Class 2 fabrics are considered intermediate flammability. Class 1 fabrics are considered normal flammability.
The CPSC flammability standard is intended to remove from the market the small articles of wearing apparel and fabrics which are "so highly flammable as to be dangerous when worn by individuals."
The manufacture for sale, the sale, or the offering for sale in commerce of any product, fabric, or related material which fails to comply with an applicable standard or regulation issued or amended under Section 4 of the FFA, 15 U.S.C. 1193, is a prohibited transaction under section 3(a) of the FFA, 15 U.S.C. 1192.
If the CPSC determines that a product, fabric or related material does not comply with a flammability standard, it is authorized to pursue a variety of legal sanctions. Included among these is the authority to seek civil penalties of up to $6,000 per violation involved, and a maximum penalty of $1.5 million for any related series of violations against any person who knowingly violates a standard. Section 5(e)(1) of the FFA, 15 U.S.C. 1194(e)(1).
To determine if apparel meets the requirements of 16 CFR Part 1610, a retailer can request the results of tests conducted or a written guaranty from the garment supplier indicating that reasonable and representative tests have been made in accordance with procedures prescribed, and applicable standards or regulations issued, amended, or continued in effect, under the FFA as set forth in 16 CFR Part 1608.
For a guaranty to serve as a defense to liability and potential criminal prosecution under section 7 of the FFA, 15 U.S.C. 1196, the person issuing the guaranty must reside in the United States and must maintain records in this country of the test results which form the basis of the guaranty.
Under the requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 ("CPSIA"), manufactures and importers will be required to provide certificates of conformity documented that the products they sell comply with all applicable CPSC consumer product standards, including the FFA. Also, for children's products, the FFA standards will need to be certified under testing performed by a third-party laboratory that is accredited by the CPSC.
As a reminder, manufacturers, distributors and retailers of consumer products distributed in commerce are required to report certain safety information to the CPSC under Section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. 2064 if they obtain information which reasonably supports the conclusion that their product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard or creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.