Governor Signs Leno Bill Informing Consumers about Flame Retardant Chemicals in Furniture

September 30, 2014

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that gives California consumers the ability to make informed decisions about whether to buy furniture containing unnecessary flame retardant chemicals. Senate Bill 1019, authored by Senator Mark Leno, requires disclosure of the use or absence of flame retardant chemicals on existing furniture labels. The bill is supported by furniture manufacturers and a broad coalition of consumer, health, environmental protection and labor groups.

“Today’s action by the Governor is a huge victory for California consumers who have long demanded the right to know what chemicals are in the furniture they purchase for their homes and families,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “While California, under the direction of Governor Brown, ruled last year that upholstered furniture can be manufactured without toxic flame retardant chemicals and still be equally fire safe, there has been no established method for communicating this to customers. SB 1019 provides consumers with this missing information so they can make informed decisions.”

California regulations adopted last year (Technical Bulletin 117-2013) implemented new fire safety standards for upholstered furniture that do not require the use of flame retardant chemicals. Without the labeling requirement contained in SB 1019, consumers would have no way of knowing if a piece of furniture complies with the fire safety standards with or without these flame retardant chemicals.

California’s Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishing and Thermal Insulation (BEARHFTI) has found that flame retardant chemicals in furniture do not provide a meaningful fire safety benefit. In addition, a growing body of evidence suggests that these chemicals harm both the environment and human health. They are associated with a variety of health concerns, including cancer, decreased fertility, hormone disruption, lower IQ and hyperactivity.

“For us, the evidence is increasingly clear that flame-retardant chemicals do little to inhibit catastrophic fires, but pose a real threat to the health and safety of firefighters and the people we serve,” said Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters. “We commend the governor for allowing consumers to make an informed choice for their families and consider safer alternatives.”

SB 1019 is co-sponsored by the California Professional Firefighters, Center for Environmental Health and Natural Resources Defense Council. It is also supported by a long list of organizations, including the American Cancer Society, American Home Furnishings Alliance, Breast Cancer Fund, California Furniture Manufacturers Association, California Labor Federation, California League of Conservation Voters, Consumers Union, Dignity Health, Humane Society of the United States, Kaiser Permanente, Perkins + Will and Sierra Club.

"We applaud Senator Leno and Governor Brown for leading this drive to protect California's children and families from toxic flame retardant chemicals," said Michael Green, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Health. "Our work shows that many companies are already eliminating these chemicals from their products, and with labeling consumers will be able to see which companies are making safer products for our homes, schools and workplaces."

SB 1019 becomes law on January 1, 2015.