(NaturalNews) A new measure has been proposed that would allow Californians the right to know if the furniture they are buying contains flame-retardant chemicals that are potentially hazardous to their health.
The legislation, which was introduced by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, comes amid changes to a state regulation that was designed to make it easier for furniture makers to meet safety requirements without utilizing harmful flame-retardant chemicals, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
However Leno, who has attempted to get such chemical retardants regulated for the past several years, said the new changes to existing regulations still do not provide consumers with all the information they need to know to make a proper decision.
The regulation "merely states there is a new flammability standard ... and there's a way to meet that standard without the use of chemicals," Leno told the paper. "But if you go to buy some furniture and there's no labeling of what it is and what it isn't, you're still in the dark."
The bill, SB1019, would force manufacturers to disclose to consumers whether their furniture was made using fire-retardant chemicals.
Chemicals linked to health issues
"The legislation is a commonsense measure to require labeling about the use of these chemicals in our furniture," Dr. Sarah Janssen, UCSF research scientist and board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility in the Bay Area, told the paper. "It's basic information about our furniture every consumer needs to know when making big purchases for their homes."
Current regulations allow furniture makers to comply more easily with safety standards without using chemicals in their manufacturing process. The chemicals have been linked to reproductive and neurological problems, as well as developmental delays, cancer and other potential issues. Many of the chemicals are included in mattresses and furniture designed for infants and toddlers.
The regulation change took effect Jan. 1 but furniture makers have until Jan. 1, 2015 to comply. The delayed implementation gives them time to adjust their manufacturing process.
Furniture makers were never required to include fire-retardant chemicals in their manufacturing, but they usually put them in polyurethane foam products so they will pass tests under old standards, which required upholstered furniture to be able to withstand 12 seconds of small, open flame, such as a match. The new standard requires such furniture to withstand a smolder, like that which can be caused by a cigarette.
Chemical industry set to oppose - again
Changes to the law have been fought by chemical makers, according to Liza Gross at Environmental Health News:
Facing growing concerns over the health risks of flame retardants in household products, the chemical industry spent at least $23.2 million over the past five years to lobby California officials and donate to campaigns in a successful effort to defeat legislation, according to an investigation...
Gross said over that period five bills that could have regulated the chemicals failed to pass the state Legislature; the top four recipients of the industry's donations included three Democrats and one Republican, none whom once voted in favor of any of the bills. Two of the lawmakers were members of a committee that rejected one of the measures, Gross said.
Officials from Leno's office said his measure has yet to receive formal opposition, but as Gross reported, it is expected that the chemical industry will once again lobby against its passage. One maker of flame retardant has already filed a suit in an attempt to block the new regulation, the Chronicle reported.
Still, some furniture makers have already began producing products that are free of retardants.
"We are advocates of the law. We go to the factories and say we are not buying anything with flame retardants in it," Bob Schoenfeld, the compliance officer in the Petaluma headquarters of Scandinavian Designs, Plummers and Dania., told the paper.
He said more than 80 percent of the furniture sold by the firm has no added flame retardants, pointing out that the company stopped using them in August.