California Governor Brown Orders State to Change Flame Retardant Rule

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Breaking news! And great news! An obscure law in California is the only reason that there are harmful chemical flame retardants in furniture, and as of today, they will start a process to change that rule. Now we’ll just have to make sure that the state’s rule change gets rid of harmful — and potentially harmful — chemicals.

Here’s the statement from Gov. Edmund Brown in full:


SACRAMENTO – In an effort to protect public safety by reducing the use of toxic flame retardants, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today directed state agencies to revise flammability standards for upholstered furniture sold in the state.

Governor Brown has asked the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation to review the state’s four-decade-old flammability standards and recommend changes to reduce toxic flame retardants while continuing to ensure fire safety.

“Toxic flame retardants are found in everything from high chairs to couches and a growing body of evidence suggests that these chemicals harm human health and the environment,” said Governor Brown. “We must find better ways to meet fire safety standards by reducing and eliminating—wherever possible—dangerous chemicals.”

Studies show that humans are at risk from exposure to toxic chemicals used as flame retardants in upholstered furniture. A 2008 study by the Environmental Working Group found that toddlers often have three times the level of flame retardant chemicals in their bodies as their parents, and California children have some of the highest levels of toxic flame retardants in their bodies.

A peer-reviewed study by scientists at Cal/EPA found that California women have much higher levels of toxic flame retardants in their breast tissue than women in other states and countries. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found statistically significant associations between flame retardant levels in the blood of California women and reduced fertility. The researchers believe this link may result from alterations in thyroid hormone levels after exposure to the chemicals.

Numerous studies demonstrate that firefighters have significantly elevated rates of cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and brain cancer. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine concluded that firefighters have a significantly elevated risk of cancer that may be attributed to toxic chemicals they inhale, including flame retardants.

The guidelines in place now—Technical Bulletin 117 for flammability standards—will be updated to reflect modern manufacturing methods that can lower the use of harmful chemicals.

The process to change these regulations will include workshops and the opportunity for public comment as well as administrative review.

6 thoughts on “California Governor Brown Orders State to Change Flame Retardant Rule

  1. It is important for our State of California to be in the forefront to eliminate harmful products from our daily usage materials/products.
    To have a better future, for our children’s health, mental and physical, these harmful ingredients must be removed from our everyday life

  2. That is great news! I have a question for you. Some say polester batting is safer because it is naturally flame retardant so you dont have to add flame retardants to it…i also read that flame retardants like bromine can be added to polester as it is made so they are part of its final form. Is this really safe as a jacket or pillow stuffing? Obviously i can not look at a throw pillow and figure out if it is polyester with bromine added or not. Is there a source of safer polester stuffing for restuffing couch cushions? I actually like natural rubber as a seat cushion option for a sofa but it is expensive and maybe polyester batting would be better for back cushions. I threw out my sofa during my second pregnany and have been without one for awhile. Our natural latex mattress topper covering a cotton batting older futon is quite funtional and comfortable as seating….but i would like a real sofa someday. Thanks for sharing all of you research on health and safety.

    • Thanks for these comments! Given the mention in the press release of maintaining some chemical standard, if a lower one, we’re going to have to stay involved and vigilant, but this is a great first step. Cheers, Laura

  3. Good deal. At least it is now open to discussion and perhaps eventually changes!!! Thanks for your accurate work and research!

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