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About the Furniture Flame Retardancy Report Update

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About This Project | Milestones | Participants

September 24, 2013 -- EPA announces its plan to update the DfE Alternatives Assessment for flame retardants in flexible polyurethane foam. This document (PDF) (6pp, 37K) lists 17 flame retardant chemicals and 2 proprietary blends that will be evaluated in the updated report and this document (PDF) (6pp, 39K) lists flame retardant chemicals that DfE does not expect to evaluate. EPA developed these lists based on stakeholder input on use patterns for flame retardant in flexible polyurethane foam. For more information contact Emma Lavoie (lavoie.emma@epa.gov).

Furniture Flame Retardancy Icon

Partnership goal and scope

In January 2013, EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) began updating a 2005 report on its alternatives assessment for flame retardants used in polyurethane foam for furniture.

The update is addressing:

  • New data on pentaBDE alternatives
  • New flame retardant products for polyurethane foam
  • Updates to DfE's hazard criteria

This update, informed by stakeholders, is identifying flame-retardant chemicals used to meet fire-safety requirements for upholstered consumer products containing polyurethane foam, and updating their health and environmental profiles with the latest science and DfE's hazard criteria (PDF) (33pp, 174K).

EPA will assess the flame retardants in the 2005 report that are still in commerce, adding flame retardants used in upholstered polyurethane foam products or marketed for use in these products since 2005.

EPA is updating hazard profiles for the chemicals (chapter 4) and adding a new summary chapter to give context to the update. This update will not address textiles, flame-retardant barriers, or other alternative technologies.

Project IS Project Is NOT
A hazard assessment for flame retardants used in upholstered consumer products containing polyurethane foam. An evaluation of other materials or components of upholstered foam furniture (e.g., fabrics).
An assessment of health and environmental endpoints including ecotoxicity and fate in the environment. An evaluation of alternative technologies for meeting regulatory standards for flammability (e.g., barriers).
A voluntary, stakeholder informed project. A comprehensive environmental or human health risk assessment, or life-cycle assessment, of upholstered consumer products containing foam.

Background on the flame retardant pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE)

The flame retardant pentabromodiphenyl ether, or pentaBDE, was widely used as an additive in furniture foam and other products to meet flammability requirements until the early 2000s, when growing concerns over the possible environmental and public health impacts of pentaBDE led government and industry to shift towards alternative flame retardants.

More information about pentaBDE is available on the Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) Action Plan Summary.

In 2003, DfE convened a multi-stakeholder group to undertake an assessment of viable alternatives to pentaBDE. Called the Furniture Flame Retardancy Partnership (FFRP), it included chemical manufacturers, furniture manufacturers, and governmental and non-governmental organizations.

At the end of 2004, industry voluntarily ceased production of pentaBDE, and EPA issued a Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) that effectively prohibited further manufacture of the chemical.

In 2005, the partnership issued the report, "Environmental Profiles of Chemical Flame-Retardant Alternatives for Low-Density Polyurethane Foam." The report discussed the human health and environmental profiles of pentaBDE alternatives which did not appear to pose the same level of concern as pentaBDE.

In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) proposed a federal standard for flammability of residential upholstered furniture (PDF) (52 pp, 1.8MB); this proposal is awaiting CPSC test results and revision. In April 2013, the CPSC asked for comments about the possibility of moving to an open flame standard, instead of the smolder standard proposed in 2008.

In 2013, California's Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation proposed a revision of Technical Bulletin 117, the California flammability standard for upholstered furniture. In November 2013, the Technical Bulletin 117-2013 (PDF) (14 pp, 279K), was finalized. Manufacturers may begin to use the new testing requirements as of January 1, 2014 and must be fully compliant by January 1, 2015.

DfE's updated alternatives assessment will complement the CPSC and California actions by providing important information for informed selection of flame retardants in the manufacture of home and office furniture, as well as the many home products not covered by these standards.

How do I get more information?

If you would like more information on the 2005 Furniture Flame Retardancy Partnership report or its pending update, please contact Emma Lavoie (Lavoie.Emma@epa.gov).

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