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Agency Wants to Hear About Fire Barriers

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Consumer Product Safety Commission will discuss fire safety technologies for upholstered furniture at its Maryland laboratory, April 25.

The Fire Safety Technology meeting is to gather additional information about the current and anticipated progress in fire barrier technologies and their applications to upholstered furniture, and discuss other technologies and options to reduce the fire hazard posed by residential furniture, the CPSC said.

The CPSC anticipates discussing the types of fire barriers that are available, including materials, capabilities and limitations. The CPSC also wants to discuss those topics as they relate to mattresses, and marine and aviation furniture.

The CPSC asks whether fire barriers used for mattresses can be used in upholstered furniture, and if so, what modifications, if any, are needed.

The CPSC also wants to know what technologies are used, such as fabrics or chemicals, to improve fire suppression, and if fire safety technologies from other industries, such as marine and aviation, can be applied to residential furniture.

Synthetic chemicals are commonly used as fire retardants and have resulted in a $4 billion per year industry, according to a Yale Environment 360 report.

The report continues, "this spring and summer, a test of consumer products, as well as a study in Environmental Science & Technology, showed that use of these chemicals continues to be widespread, and that compounds thought to be off the market due to health concerns continue to be used in the U.S."

"Also this summer, new research provided the first strong evidence that maternal exposure to a widely used type of flame retardant, known as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), can alter thyroid function in pregnant women and children, result in low birth weights, and impair neurological development," according to the Yale report.

Fire barriers may consist of different chemistries and physical structures including flat weaves, knits, and high lofts. As an example, a company makes Firegard fabric to be used in mattresses to block the flames from getting to most of the mattress, based on yarn structure and composition, "without the use of topically-applied fire retardant chemicals," according to the Firegard website.

The CPSC's meeting is open, with registration, and will include a brief overview of the CPSC's past activities on furniture rulemaking, and a series of panels covering specific topics.

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