The American Chemistry Council Addresses Recent Stories About Flame Retardants

Contact: Bryan Goodman 202-249-6510   

Council Says Flame Retardants Help Save Lives, Prevent Injury

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 19, 2011) – A number of articles questioning the effectiveness of flame retardants in preventing injuries and saving lives have been published in recent days. The articles are focused primarily on one California law, called TB 117, that requires upholstered furniture to withstand 12 seconds of an open flame without igniting. The following facts provide more context to these stories and highlight the life-saving role flame retardants can play when they are included in household products.

California Fire Standards

  • California is currently the only state with fire safety regulations for upholstered furniture.
  • According to the California Bureau of Home Furnishings, fire fatality rates fell by more than 25 percent following the state’s adoption of furniture fire standards in the 1970s.
  • According to the National Association of State Fire Marshals, close to 4,000 fires and 500 deaths would have been prevented over the 10-year period of 1985 to 1994 if the rest of the U.S. had adopted a fire standard for upholstered furniture similar to the one in California.

Life in the U.S. Without Flame Retardants

  • Fires originating in upholstered furniture account for more than 20 percent of all fire-related deaths in residential structures.
  • About 10 people die each week in the U.S. as a result of residential upholstered furniture fires.
  • An average of 360 people die and 740 are injured annually as a result of upholstered furniture fires ignited by cigarettes and small open flame sources. Flammability standards for upholstered furniture would help prevent these fires.

To learn more about the impact of fire on life and property visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

*The information in this document was pulled from the “National Furniture Flammability Standard” fact sheet from the National Association of State Fire Marshals. Source of Projection: California Upholstered Furniture Fire Losses vs. the Rest of the U.S., National Association of State Fire Marshals, October 1999.