Flammability Standards Legislation Advances

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A6557 M of A Sweeney This bill prohibits the sale of residential upholstered furniture in New York that becomes fully involved and subject to flashover in less that fifteen minutes from the time it is exposed to a heat source and prohibits the use of certain chemical flame retardants that are added to the composition of the furniture.

The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) represents more than 90,000 Volunteer and EMS responders and strongly supports the above referenced bill which addresses flammability standards for defined upholstered furniture which can be highly volatile when ignited and has become a leading cause of firefighter and household deaths because of the rapid propensity to reach an all consumed stage called flashover.

FASNY also supports the elimination of chemical flame retardants as stipulated in the legislation, that are recognized as posing a danger to both firefighters and citizens because of their toxic qualities when used every day, as well as their particular gaseous qualities when inhaled during a fire.

By setting a fifteen minute until flashover standard, FASNY is working to provide firefighters with sufficient time to arrive at a scene to save a building and possibly rescue persons trapped inside. Statistics demonstrate that when firefighters are able to arrive at a scene before the contents of a room have reached a critical stage a fire is able to be contained.

Most modern furniture contains polyurethane foam, which is often referred to in the fire service as “solid gasoline” because of its highly combustible nature. For this reason, and in order to meet existing flammability standards foam is treated with flame retardant chemicals. These chemicals have proven ineffective and the furniture, unless it is subject to more relevant standards, will continue to lead to deaths and injuries among firefighters, risk exposure for New York’s citizens, and countless dollars of needless property damage.

Response times have become increasingly more important as structures and home furnishings evolve. Materials have changed, both in residential structure and home furnishings. The lead time to save a residential structure and its occupants is challenged today by fires that are ignited quickly and burn at extremely high temperatures. Today’s soft furnishings are a major contributing factor to these “instant conflagrations” and FASNY submits that citizens should not be compromised by a future where furnishings and other household products do not contribute to a sustainably safe home environment.

If soft furnishings ignite, proceed to a flash stage where the object is fully involved and the entire room and contents ignite, it is likely to take the whole structure over making it unsafe for firefighters to enter the burning structure. This creates likelihood of total loss. This legislation addresses this critical fire response phenomenon and also reduces the exposure of New York’s citizens to harmful toxic chemicals. FASNY urges the swift passage of this legislation.

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