Monday July 23, 2012
Senate Panel Queries CPSC, EPA and Others on FR ChemicalsBy Sean Oberle
U.S. movement away from flame retardant (FR) chemicals in upholstered furniture and other products continued at a July 17 hearing of the Senate Appropriations financial services and general government subcommittee.
CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum emphasized that agency rules do not and will not mandate FR chemicals; CPSC’s mandates are performance based not design based. She further explained that upholstered furniture, for example, would pass in-the-works CPSC rules with barriers, and she pointed to a recent agency study (PSL, 6/4/12, p. 1) that found barriers may have better fire suppression.
Meanwhile, Andy Counts, American Home Furnishings Alliance CEO, told the panel “the only reason flame retardant chemicals are found in upholstered furniture” in the U.S. is California’s TB-117, the state’s furniture flammability rule. He noted that Governor Jerry Brown (D) last month (PSL, 6/25/12, p. 8) called for reconsideration of rules mandating FR chemicals, especially TB-117.
Browns’ action – and the Senate hearing – were prompted by a Chicago Tribune exposé series (PSL, 5/21/12, p. 1) alleging that shady dealings by chemical makers and tobacco companies were behind the high use of FR chemicals. That series questioned efficacy of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). James Jones, Acting Assistant Administrator of EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention told the panel TSCA needs reform. Tenenbaum suggested the Flammable Fabrics Act also needs reform as its requirements for CPSC action are an “onerous burden.”