Fingers Crossed for New California Rules to Ensure Fire Safety and Health

Ever since the Chicago Tribune published a fascinating series that exposed the chemical industry’s deceptive campaign to force toxic chemicals into household furniture, action to update California’s furniture regulation known as “TB 117” has accelerated rapidly.  Last week, Governor Brown announced that he was directing his administration to update California flammability regulations that have led to the proliferation of dangerous chemicals in our bodies and our environment.  This week I attended a hearing of the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee where Tonya Blood, Chief of the Bureau of Electronic Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (BEARHFTI) announced that the Bureau will soon issue regulations to finally update California’s decades old flammability standard.  We look forward to reviewing the details, but based on Chief Blood’s testimony, the new standard will require a different type of test; one that reflects how most fires actually start – by cigarettes left burning. 

Chief Blood also announced they will exempt 14 baby products, including booster seats, car seats, high chairs and baby swings, from California’s TB 117 so that parents will no longer inadvertently expose their young children to toxic chemicals that threaten their health.  Chemicals used as flame retardants have been linked to cancer, learning and memory impairment, and reproductive problems.

The announcements from the Brown administration and the engagement from the state legislature are very positive steps forward.  NRDC and a coalition of firefighters, public health experts, consumer protection organizations, and furniture manufacturers have been working for years to promote healthy homes and improve fire safety by advocating a change to California’s TB 117.  We look forward to reviewing the administration’s proposal and participating in workshops scheduled for July 24 and 25th.   The formal rule making process will begin soon thereafter.  We thank Governor Brown and Chief Blood for taking action to update TB 117.  We also thank Senator Mark Leno and Assembly Member Bob Wieckowski for raising the profile of this issue and helping to educate other legislators and the public.  This is a long overdue process and we are very encouraged that change is on the way.