PFA History

The Flexible Polyurethane Foam Industry Finds A Voice

During the 1960s, foam producers were an independent, competitive group of about 100 small companies. The need to reduce freight costs led to the establishment of many new foam plants that located throughout the country within 250 miles of their fabrication customers.  During industry consolidation in the 1970s, the number of FPF producers shrank to about 20 foam companies, but the industry retained its entrepreneurial, independent character. 

However, during the late 1970s, the need to address a new regulatory environment focused on foam flammability and fire safety was the catalyst for U.S. foam producers to join together and establish an industry association.

Almost from the beginning, FPF was recognized as having the potential to ignite.  Like carbon-based materials such as wool, cotton, nylon and polyester, FPF is flammable and should be kept away from open flames. During the industry’s early years, FPF producers continued to research and improve the combustion characteristics of FPF to help reduce the ignition and combustion properties of furniture and other foam products.  In 1972, as part of a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission, foam producers along with the Society of the Plastics Industry and ASTM International consented to change flammability disclaimer statements and the foam producers agreed to spend $5 million over a period of five years on research to gain an understanding of the combustion characteristics of FPF.  Other regulatory challenges were on the horizon just as the oil embargo was resulting in skyrocketing prices for chemicals.

Dennis Peterson, then a vice president for sales and marketing at Future Foam, was concerned that the foam companies were independently addressing these challenges without the benefit of a technical trade association, such as the one the chemical companies had.  To explore the idea of an association, in April 1980, Peterson called a meeting of foam producer leaders at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago.  Together, Dennis Peterson, Future Foam; Robert Hay, Foamex; James Hollars, Lear Siegler; Michael Blair, General Foam; and Donald Bellew, Scott Foam, founded the Flexible Polyurethane Foam Manufacturers Association―the group’s first name, which was soon shortened to the Polyurethane Foam Association.

Before long, the founding members’ companies were joined by other foam producers and chemical company suppliers.  With PFA, the industry was better able to develop proactive industry positions on flammability and address a number of important environmental safety matters.

Today, the PFA is the industry’s leading voice on the manufacture of FPF.  PFA’s mission is to educate customers and other groups about FPF and promote its use in manufactured and industrial products.  PFA provides facts on environmental, health and safety issues related to FPF to its members, FPF foam users, regulatory officials, business leaders and the media.  It also provides its members and their customers with technical information on the performance of FPF in consumer and industrial products. The members of PFA currently account for approximately 70 percent of all U.S. FPF production.