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Textile News
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Upholstery Fabric Makers Question Federal Standard

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

The Northern Textile Association (NTA) has sharply criticized a proposed federal flammability standard covering upholstered furniture, charging that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC’s) proposal is “arbitrary and capricious” and would severely penalize fabric manufacturers.

In formal comments filed in connection with the CPSC’s rule-making process, NTA President Karl Spilhaus called for a number of changes in the proposed standard.

“We believe that the proposal is incomplete in that it did not address several key issues that are critically important to reduce furniture flammability incidents,” Spilhaus said. “The upholstery fabrics sector in the United States has changed drastically over the past five years, and the proposal does not appear to acknowledge these changes as it included out-of-date and inaccurate information in its analysis and overlooks several other promising options for addressing the problems.”

Among the options, he cited the need to recognize the growth and popularity of Reduced Ignition Propensity (RIP) cigarettes that reduce the probability of igniting upholstered furniture. According to the Coalition of Fire Safe Cigarettes, 76 percent of the US population is now or soon will be better protected by RIP cigarettes. In addition, Spilhaus called for “more meaningful” methods for testing fabric flammability than those proposed by CPSC.

The CPSC has recommended three options for fabrics that do not pass flammability tests. The agency says fabric can be re-engineered, it can be treated with flame retardants, or a barrier can be used between the fabric and padding. Fabric manufacturers believe those options would have an adverse impact on the quality, style and cost of upholstered furniture.

In a separate letter to the Office of Management and Budget, Spilhaus stressed what he says is a “lack of test data to clearly substantiate a mandatory standard.” He charged that the CPSC has produced little small-scale and large-scale testing to support assumptions made in the proposed rule. He also claimed there would be considerable costs involved in the proposed testing and record keeping.

June 17, 2008