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Firefighters Support Legislation to Save Lives of Citizens and Firefighters by Decreasing Flammability of Upholstered Furniture and Eliminating Dangerous Toxic Chemicals

(NEW YORK – 4/23/13) – Firefighters across New York state, including the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY), the NY State Association of Fire Chiefs (NYSAFC), Association of Fire Districts of NY State and the County Fire Coordinators Association of the State of New York, along with the NY Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and Clean & Healthy New York, are urging New York legislators to pass NY Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney’s Bill A6557, which calls for the implementation of a standard for flammability of upholstered furniture.

Assemblyman Sweeney (D – Lindenhurst) introduced the bill, which is expected to be passed during the Assembly’s Earth Day proceedings. Senator Mark Grisanti (R – Buffalo) is expected to introduce a Senate companion bill in the next few weeks.

The bill addresses flammability standards for upholstered furniture, which can be highly volatile when ignited. Furniture’s rapid propensity to reach flashover greatly increases the risk of death among firefighters and the occupants they’re trying to rescue. FASNY, representing more than 90,000 volunteer firefighters and EMS responders across New York, strongly supports the bill.

As of 2016, the bill would prohibit the sale of residential upholstered furniture in New York that becomes fully involved and is subject to flashover in less than 15 minutes from the time it is exposed to a heat source. It also would prohibit the addition of certain chemical flame retardants to the furniture.

By setting a 15-minute until flashover standard, FASNY is working to provide firefighters with sufficient time to arrive at a scene to save a building and its inhabitants. 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 much more likely to be contained.

“This is obviously a complicated issue, but it’s one that’s of particular importance to FASNY and me,” said FASNY President James A. Burns. “Upholstered furniture is a common element in household fires, and the chance of putting out those fires – and saving lives and property – is greatly increased when the furniture takes longer to reach flashover. In addition, the chemicals currently used in furniture, which studies have shown offer no real benefit, endanger the health and lives of home owners, in addition to our first responders. We urge lawmakers and citizens alike to protect themselves and their homes by supporting this important legislation.”

The bill also supports the elimination of chemical flame retardants, whose toxic qualities pose a danger to firefighters and citizens. Most modern furniture contains polyurethane foam, which is highly combustible and treated with flame-retardant chemicals to meet existing flammability standards. These chemicals have proven ineffective and 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.

“This legislation will help make our homes safer. Currently, couches and other types of furniture are packed with toxic chemicals that are particularly dangerous to infants and children and have been connected to cancer, birth defects, and reproductive and neurological dysfunction,” said Assemblyman Sweeney. “In addition, these chemicals are ineffective in the event of a fire – so chemicals that are useless in a fire and dangerous to our health have no place in our homes. It’s time to act.”

Clean and Healthy New York, an environmental health organization representing thousands of New Yorkers, strongly supports this legislation.