California Bans Flame-Retardant Chemicals from Mattresses, Upholstered Furniture and Children’s Home Products

California bill AB 2998 prohibits the sale of mattresses, upholstered furniture, and children’s products containing flame retardants at levels above 1,000 parts per million (ppm) after December 31, 2019.  With some limited exceptions, the bill prohibits “persons,” including manufacturers, from selling or distributing these products at levels above 1,000 ppm, and prohibits custom upholsterers from repairing upholstered furniture or reupholstered furniture using replacement components that contain the covered chemicals at levels above 1,000 ppm.

The bill authorizes the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings, and Thermal Insulation (Bureau) to assess fines up to $10,000 against manufacturers for violation of the flame retardant prohibitions.

The bill defines “mattress” as  a ticking filled with a resilient material used alone or in combination with other products intended or promoted for sleeping upon, including, but not limited to, adult mattresses, youth mattresses, crib mattresses, bunk bed mattresses, futons, convertible sofa bed mattresses, corner group mattresses, day bed mattresses, roll-a-way bed mattresses, high risers, and trundle bed mattresses.  (See 16 CFR §1632.1 for further details.)

“Upholstered furniture” is defined as any flexible polyurethane foam or upholstered or reupholstered furniture sold in California that is required to meet certain test requirements set forth in Technical Bulletin 117-2013.

“Juvenile product” means a product designed for residential use by infants and children under 12 years of age, including, but not limited to, bassinets, booster seats, changing pads, floor playmats, highchairs, infant carriers, infant seats, infant swings, nursing pads, nursing pillows, strollers, and children’s nap mats.

A “covered flame retardant chemical” means any chemical that meets both of the following criteria:

  • A functional use for the chemical is to resist or inhibit the spread of fire or as a synergist to chemicals that resist or inhibit the spread of fire, including, but not limited to, any chemical for which the term “flame retardant” appears on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration substance safety data sheet pursuant to subdivision (g) of Section 19100.1200 of Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations as it reads on January 1, 2019.
  • The chemical is one of the following:
    • A halogenated, organophosphorus, organonitrogen, or nanoscale chemical,
    • A chemical defined as a “designated chemical” in Section 105440 of the Health and Safety Code, or
    • A chemical listed on the Washington State Department of Ecology’s list of Chemicals of High Concern to Children in Section 173-334-130 of Title 173 of the Washington Administrative Code as of January 1, 2019, and identified as a flame retardant or as a synergist to flame retardants in the rationale for inclusion in the list.

The bill makes a number of findings about flame retardants, including that:

  • Scientists have found that many of the flame-retardant chemicals commonly used in furniture exhibit one or more of the key characteristics of Persistent Organic Pollutants, and that these chemicals accumulate in our bodies and in the environment, persist in the environment for long periods of time, are capable of long-range transport, and are toxic to humans and animals.
  • Children living in California have some of the highest documented blood concentrations of certain flame retardant chemicals compared to other children in the United States.
  • The State of California has found that flame retardant chemicals are not needed to provide fire safety.

The bill also discusses the 2017 guidance document issued by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (Commission). That document found that, based on the overwhelming scientific evidence, the Commission should alert the public to serious concerns about the toxicity of organohalogen flame retardants added to children’s products, furniture, mattresses, and plastic casings surrounding electronics. The Commission requested that manufacturers eliminate the use of these chemicals in their products. It also recommended that retailers obtain assurance from manufacturers that their products do not contain these chemicals and that consumers, especially those who are pregnant or with young children, avoid products containing these chemicals.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the measure into law on September 29, 2018.