Upholstered Furniture - Flammability
Ignition of upholstered furniture
by small open flames from matches, cigarette lighters, and candles is one of
the leading causes of residential-fire deaths in the
The Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972 created the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as an independent federal regulatory agency whose mission is to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury and death associated with consumer products. CPSC also administers the Flammable Fabrics Act, under which it regulates flammability hazards and the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA), which regulates hazardous substances including chemicals. In 1993, the National Association of State Fire Marshals petitioned CPSC to issue a performance-based flammability standard for upholstered furniture to reduce the risk of residential fires. The Commission granted that portion of the petition relating to small open flame ignition risks. The
California – Technical Bulletin 117 (TB-117)
California is the only state with mandatory flammability regulations for residential upholstered furniture. A flammability performance standard was developed and is administered by the California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation. The principal standard, applicable since 1975 to all upholstered furniture sold in the state, is known as Technical Bulletin 117 (TB-117).
Technical Bulletin 117 contains a series of flammability performance tests and minimum requirements for both cigarette ignition and small open flame resistance of furniture component materials. Manufacturers generally rely on FR-treated polyurethane foam or other foam filling materials to meet the flame-prevention requirement for fillings. Cover fabrics do not require FR treatment to comply with TB-117.
Details of the sections of Technical Bulletin 117 (TB-117)
Resilient Cellular Materials – Section A of Part I of TB-117
Non-man-made Filling Materials – Section B of Part I of TB-117
Man-made Fiber Filling Materials – Section C of TB-117
Resilient Filling Materials – Section D of Part I of TB-117
Resilient Cellular Materials – Section D of Part II of TB-117
Upholstery Fabrics – Section E of Part I of TB-117
a consequence of
Some workers were reported to have experienced dermal sensitization to FR-treated upholstery, but the sensitization was in fact due to fabric finish and fiber factors, not to FRs, and no other adverse effects have been reported. No adverse effects have been reported in the general population exposed to FR-treated furniture or other FR-treated consumer products.
all FR chemicals used in
Upholstered Furniture Action Council (UFAC)
The foam/furniture flammability issue is so complex and important that attempting to cover the issues and problems thoroughly in a guidelines publication is ill advised. Therefore, only a sketch of the flammability issues and regulations will be presented in this publication. Through UFAC, PFA, and SPI, the joint industries have much information, details, and sourcing regarding the flammability issues; so if more complete and detailed information is required, it is suggested that one of these associations should be contacted. The major issues and regulations will be covered in the following sections.
The voluntary UFAC (Upholstered
Furniture Action Council) program involves all residential upholstered
furniture sold in the
The UFAC program is a voluntary program which became completely instituted in 1978. The UFAC program involves everyone in the upholstered furniture loop, i.e., the raw material suppliers to the furniture industry, the furniture manufacturers, and furniture retailers. To date, the UFAC program is shown to be successful by virtue of significant decreases in fire incidence and fire deaths since the inception of the UFAC program.
In the UFAC program, UFAC has developed an extensive series of test methods, furniture construction criteria, and procedures which assist manufacturers in complying with the UFAC program. The UFAC tests are cigarette smoldering protocols (as opposed to open flame protocols) since from the very beginning, cigarettes were shown to be the major cause of upholstery fires.
In the UFAC protocol, applicable raw materials are tested using lighted cigarettes. Outer fabrics are classified by the use of lighted cigarettes, and then UFAC furniture construction criteria are used to assemble upholstered furniture which is resistant to ignition by lighted cigarettes. 14.2.4 UFAC has also developed cross-checks, i.e., compliance procedures that include an annual sampling of all of the participant's raw materials for a compliance cross-check in the compliance laboratory selected by UFAC. UFAC also has a technical committee and laboratory alliance which meets routinely to investigate new technology and/or new flammability requirements.
NFPA 260 is the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) version the UFAC test protocol and criteria. NFPA 260 differs only in language and publication form from the UFAC test methodology.
California Technical Bulletin 116
California Technical Bulletin 116
is basically a cigarette test for full scale pieces of upholstered furniture
which are manufactured for residential use in the state of
California Technical Bulletin 117
California Technical Bulletin
117, a mandatory standard, is both an open flame test and a smoldering
cigarette test for the component materials used to make residential upholstered
furniture which is to be sold in the state of
California Technical Bulletin 133
California Technical Bulletin 133
is a very severe open flame test, mandatory for furniture sold in what is
called "public occupancies" in the state of
The Boston Fire Department Tests
and Requirements (The Boston Fire Code) was developed solely for public
occupancy furniture sold in the city of
NFPA 264, The Cone Calorimeter
The Cone Calorimeter is a bench scale apparatus used to measure peak heat release and total heat release of small size furniture components and composites. The Cone Calorimeter measures these heat values based on oxygen depletion during burning, so it is an oxygen consumption calorimeter. In the Cone Calorimeter, other apparatus are available to measure mass loss, smoke opacity, carbon monoxide, and other gases when required. Thus far, the Cone Calorimeter has been a useful research tool for the measurement of the heat properties of materials and composites. Some of the data from the Cone Calorimeter can be used in computer modeling of fires.
ASTM has published equivalents to the UFAC cigarette test methods. Like the NFPA 260, the ASTM method is exactly the same as the UFAC methodology--only differing in publishing style and language form. ASTM has published a form of California TB-133 as ASTM E-1537. This test method also contains some other approaches to full-scale oxygen consumption calorimetry which could eventually lead to some economies of scale in testing.
UL has published a full scale test method for upholstered furniture. In many respects, the UL method is similar to TB-133 as it utilizes oxygen consumption calorimetry. To date, the significant difference between the UL method and TB-133 is the ignition source. UL continues to use a wooden crib as the ignition source for their testing.
significant happening in
The European Common Market Countries (EC)
During the process of defining criteria for cross border trading within the EC, a group of technical personnel from each country involved was appointed to study the flammability issues and make recommendations to the ruling body of the EC. This technical group studied the issues carefully and decided that the open flame issues were too complex to include in an immediate EC standard. At this writing, their estimate of the time necessary to develop an open flame standard was three or more years. As a result, the EC technical community decided on a cigarette smoldering test only, and at this time, two tests are under consideration by the EC technical group: the BS 5852 test and the UFAC tests and construction criteria. In the European community, the UFAC program will be called EUFAC.
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