A Critical PFA Issue.

The Flexible Polyurethane Foam Industry's Proactive Approach To Fire Safety

An organic material, like wool, cotton, nylon and polyester, FPF is flammable. It should be kept away from open flames and heat sources such as burning cigarettes, lighters, matches, space heaters or any other potential ignition source, because if ignited, FPF can burn rapidly. Since the 1960s, PFA members have been researching and improving the combustion characteristics of FPF cushion components to help reduce the ignition and combustion properties of furniture and mattresses.

The PFA has long supported fire prevention and safety education and participated in research and the development of flammability standards. 

A mattress being tested to the Federal Flammability Law, 16 CFR part 1633.

In February 2006, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) approved a new standard that set mandatory national fire performance criteria for all mattresses. The PFA actively supported the new standard and worked with the CPSC, the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA), the Sleep Products Safety Council (SPSC) and other industry groups in its development. On July 1, 2007, the new Federal Open-Flame Mattress Standard (16 CFR Part 1633) took effect. Compliance is largely accomplished using fire barrier materials that limit the involvement of internal cushioning materials in mattress fires.

TB-117-2013 Test Apparatus. A lit cigarette is placed under the white cloth.

In 2013, the California Bureau of Household Goods and Services (BHGS) approved a new version of California Technical Bulletin 117. The revised CA TB-117-2013 responds to concerns that the earlier standard drove increased use of flame retardants (FR) chemicals in foam and furniture. PFA again worked closely with the Bureau, plus other stakeholders, including the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), to develop the updated standard. TB-117-2013 focuses on ignition of furniture by smoldering sources such as cigarettes, which account for approximately 90% of furniture fires.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), ASTM, and the model building code authorities have also considered standards for the flammability performance of upholstered furniture. Commercial interests that stand to benefit from changes in furniture construction and testing requirements have proposed an array of measures that would add cost and complexity to the production of furniture and its components. Proposals frequently urge resistance to open flame sources such as burning curtains or fires that are intentionally set. Compared with federal and state regulators, standards bodies are less apt to consider economic and performance burdens such changes would impose upon furniture makers and consumers. PFA and its industry and public interest allies actively engage in standards development to ensure that unjustified flammability requirements such as this are avoided.

The PFA’s proactive research and responsibility continues, supporting the efforts of upholstered furniture and mattress producers to reduce the incidence of fire. In addition, the PFA plays a key role by educating regulators, fire officials, furniture and mattress manufacturers, home furnishings retailers and consumers about the safe handling and use of FPF.

Be Proactive On Fire Prevention

PFA is a partner of the United States Fire Administration and NFPA. We suggest you take advantage of downloadable education materials to be proactive on fire prevention within your company and your community:

Escape Planning
Less than 75% of American families have an escape plan in case of fire. Fewer than half of those families with plans have ever practiced it. Help your family, employees and neighbors plan ahead. Everyone needs to know what to do and where to go in case of fire. Please download and distribute this important escape planning reminder.

Smoking and Home Fires
Every year, almost 1,000 smokers and non-smokers are killed in home fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials. The U.S. Fire Administration is working to help prevent home fire deaths and injuries caused by smoking materials. Fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials are preventable.

Install. Inspect. Protect.
The Install. Inspect. Protect. Campaign is part of the U.S. Fire Administration’s effort to reduce fire deaths and injuries across the nation by urging residents to install smoke alarms in their homes and inspect and maintain them on a regular basis. Working smoke alarms and sprinklers save lives.

12 Ways You Can Be Proactive on Fire Prevention


NFPA Escape Planning

US Fire Administration Toolkit

INTOUCH: Understanding Federal Mattress Flammability Standard

INTOUCH: Cal. Technical Bulletin 117-2013

For other education and training materials, click here.