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California SB1019 Update - Part 2 - Redundant to TB 117-2013

In the previous post we looked at the language of the labeling California SB1019 would require. Now, let's take a quick look at how TB 117-2013 is referred to in the proposed legislation.

In an earlier part of the bill, it refers to the new requirements of TB117: “The revised Technical Bulletin 117-2013 provides improved fire safety standards without the use of flame retardant chemicals.” This is false in two phrases, which is quite a feat for such a short sentence.

First, TB117-2013 does not 'provide improved safety standards’, as the test for TB-117 has changed from being an open flame test to a smolder test. The implication of this is that if you fall asleep on a sofa with a lit cigarette, the sofa won’t ignite from the cigarette. However, if you fall asleep with a lit cigarette and something else on the sofa catches fire, TB-117 no longer covers that situation regarding your sofa.

Second, TB-117 is not a test for flame retardants: it’s a flammability test. “Improved” might mean that it’s easier to pass now without flame retardants, but the grammar usage in the sentence seems to imply something else to me, that is more stringent, and that safety from fire is improved. By the way, TB-117 was always able to be passed without flame retardants, but the required materials and barrier layers were not always the most comfortable. But those are esthetic and comfort choices, not safety choices.

Many organizations, in particular the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) had spoken out last year when the prospect of revising TB 117 came about, and called for TB 117 to maintain its open flame test, instead of diminishing the heat source to be a burning ember, which is a very low standard to pass.

So, to recap: TB 117-2013 was revised to a lower threshold to allow furnishings without flame retardants to pass this test by way of using an ember heat source instead of open flame source; and SB 1019 – a bill specifically about flame retardant chemicals in furniture - uses language to make people believe that this results in greater fire safety. Reduce the threshold of safety, then tell people they're safer now than before.

Review TB 117-2013

This post follows up from our previous post on our opposition to SB1019, with  a look at the labeling and what you can do to affect regulatory change.