Saturday, January 5, 2019

Does A Flame Retardant Ban in San Francisco Mean Safer Furniture and Kids Items For You Too?

photo credit:  Charlie and Marlow

Residents of San Francisco (and maybe the rest of the country soon too?) can now worry less about exposing themselves and their children to extremely toxic flame retardant chemicals. This is because their city, as of January 1, 2019, has banned the sale of  (most) furniture and baby/children’s products made for residential use that contain or are made with a flame retardant chemical at a level above 1,000 parts per million.

What specific items are included in the new ordinance?
  • new upholstered furniture.  This is defined as : made with soft materials including fabric , padding, decking, barrier material, foam,  
  • old reupholstered furniture who’s foam has been replaced 

Beyond  upholstered furniture, the ban also includes juvenile products meant for residential use.  This includes, but is not limited to:   

  • booster seats
  • bassinets
  • changing pads
  • floor play mats
  • highchairs
  • infant bouncer
  • infant carriers
  • infant swing
  • nursing pad
  • nursing pillow
  • play yard
  • strollers
  • children’s nap mat

Any juvenile or upholstered product included that has an electrical or electronic components has a couple of more months to comply.  They must comply with the  flame retardant chemical restriction by June 1 2019

What is not included in the law:
  • furniture meant for public use
  • furniture/items meant for vehicles or airplanes (ie car seats)
  • new or used bedding pillows and mattresses
  • outdoor furniture intended to be used exclusively for outdoors

Why is this a big deal?
This is huge news since flame retardant chemicals are linked to hormone disruption, lower IQ reproductive disorders, ADD and cancers and children, especially, are extremely vulnerable to these chemicals.

In 2011, a Duke University led study revealed that foam in 80% of 12 tested baby products contained toxic or potentially harmful flame retardant chemicals. A 2014 University of California, Berkeley study found flame retardants in the dust of 100% of the California early childhood education facilities studied. Indoor dust, via inhalation and indigestion, is a common way humans are exposed to these chemicals.

Currently the US does not have a flammability standard for residential upholstered furniture products. In its absence, California's approach has served as the de facto national standard.  California updated its regulations five years ago to remove an 'open flame' test that manufacturers almost always met through the use of added flame retardants.  The result was a standard that could be met more readily without added flame retardants and, following the state's action, many furniture companies did start moving away from using the substances.

Additionally, in September of 2018, the governor of California signed into law AB 2998 [2] to restrict a broad range of flame retardants in juvenile products, mattresses, upholstered furniture and reupholstered furniture.   This law is similar to the new San Francisco law however the effective date is January 1, 2020 (and the San Francisco ban went into effect 01-01 of this year, 2019 and the California state wide law excepts :  

  • - Electronic components of juvenile products, mattresses, reupholstered furniture, upholstered furniture, or associated casing for those electronic components
  • - Threads or fibers for stitching mattress components together 
  • - Components of adult mattresses other than foam

This is also huge news because when one large city (or a state) passes chemical restrictions like these it could force retailers that need to eliminate flame retardant chemicals from their products to do the same on all the products they sell throughout the US- therefore benefiting all of us.  Here is hoping they do!!


  1. That's really nice move by the govt to ban all the toxic furniture as anything that is toxic should never be in anyone's home as it really makes the life of every family member go in danger.

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  3. Babies aren't known for their good timing or the awareness of their surroundings, whether they are at home or not.
    As a parent, you are required to change your baby's pad no matter the time or place. If you are out with your baby,
    it’s best to have with you a changing pad that you consider to be the Best Changing Pad for your child, instead of using the unhygienic changing stations in public restrooms.

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