By Philip L. Comella and Craig B. Simonsen

In an executive order California’s Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., on Monday directed state agencies to revise the State’s flammability standards for upholstered furniture sold in the state. In California, the Office of the State Fire Marshal issues certificates of registration for approved flame retardant chemicals for individuals and companies that apply flame retardant chemicals, for nonflammable materials, and for fabrics that have been treated with flame retardant chemicals. Governor Brown has asked the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation to review the state’s current flammability standards and to recommend changes in order to reduce toxic flame retardants while continuing to ensure fire safety.

According to Governor Brown, “toxic flame retardants are found in everything from high chairs to couches and a growing body of evidence suggests that these chemicals harm human health and the environment.” “We must find better ways to meet fire safety standards by reducing and eliminating—wherever possible—dangerous chemicals.” “Studies show that humans are at risk from exposure to toxic chemicals used as flame retardants in upholstered furniture.”

The Governor’s executive order notes that a peer-reviewed study by scientists at Cal/EPA found that “California women have much higher levels of toxic flame retardants in their breast tissue than women in other states and countries. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found statistically significant associations between flame retardant levels in the blood of California women and reduced fertility.” In addition, other studies indicate that firefighters have significantly elevated rates of cancer that may be attributed to toxic chemicals they inhale, including flame retardants.

The Governor expects that the guidelines currently in place, Technical Bulletin 117, for flammability standards, will be updated to reflect modern manufacturing methods to decrease the use of harmful chemicals.

The California Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials will hold an informational hearing on this topic on June 26th, at 1:30 p.m., State Capitol, Room 444.