18 Aug 2017
Maine Adopts Comprehensive Ban on Flame Retardants in Upholstered Furniture
Maine recently enacted into law a broad-ranging ban on the sale and distribution state-wide of upholstered furniture containing in its fabric or other covering, or in its cushioning materials, more than 0.1 percent of a flame retardant chemical or more than 0.1 percent of a mixture that includes flame retardant chemicals. Slated to enter into force on 1 January 2019, the prohibition was endorsed by the Maine legislature following a decisive bi-partisan vote to override a veto by Governor LePage.
The Maine legislation defines “upholstered furniture” as residential furniture intended for indoor use in a home or other dwelling intended for residential occupancy that consists in whole or in part of resilient cushioning materials enclosed within a covering consisting of fabric or related materials. The term “flame retardant chemical” is defined as a chemical or chemical compound for which a functional use is to resist or inhibit the spread of fire. Such chemicals include halogenated, phosphorus-based, nitrogen-based and nanoscale flame retardants, as well as any chemical or chemical compound for which "flame retardant" appears on the substance safety data sheet required under 29 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 1910.1200(g) (2015).
Excluded from the prohibition are (i) used upholstered furniture; (ii) upholstered furniture purchased for public use in public facilities, including schools, jails and hospitals, that is required by the State of California to meet the flammability standard in California Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation Technical Bulletin 133, "Flammability Test Procedure for Seating Furniture for Use in Public Occupancies," dated January 1991; and (iii) new upholstered furniture otherwise subject to the prohibition that is sold, offered for sale or distributed for promotional purposes in the state by a retailer or wholesaler on or after 1 January 2019 and that was imported into the state or otherwise purchased or acquired by the retailer or wholesaler for sale or distribution in the state prior to 1 January 2019.
Press reports indicate that the Maine ban sets a precedent for the United States because it essentially targets all toxic flame retardant chemicals in residential upholstered furniture. By contrast, other state prohibitions have been less comprehensive, due in part to aggressive lobbying by domestic chemical manufacturers. Proponents of the ban argue that it is based on the fact that flame retardant chemicals are unnecessary for fire safety and should not be substituted for other chemicals that may also be hazardous to human health.