US Chemtura sues over California's new flame-retardant rules

16 January 2014 21:44  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Chemtura filed a lawsuit on Thursday seeking to overturn new rules in California that are intended to reduce the amount of flame-retardant chemicals used in upholstered furniture, the US-based specialty chemicals producer said.

Chemtura makes the flame retardants. It filed the lawsuit in the Superior Court of California in Sacramento.

The company alleged that the new rules weaken the state's safety standards. The new rules went into effect on 1 January.

Chemtura said the lawsuit is a necessary legal step to obtain a judicial review of the new rules.

Chemtura said that the revised rules require furniture to pass only a cigarette smoulder test and eliminate what it called a vital requirement − that the filling material used in upholstered furniture pass an open-flame test. This test replicates a candle, match or lighter flame.

“As a member of the industry that develops and supplies products to prevent fire injuries and deaths, we are filing this lawsuit to defend the need for a standard that provides more fire protection, not less,” according to a statement by Anne Noonan, Chemtura's senior vice president of industrial engineered products.

“Sadly, fire safety has taken a wrong turn in California, and its impact will be felt by families nationwide unless we can reverse this misguided and unlawful decision," Noonan said.

California Governor Jerry Brown announced the approval of the new standards in the end of November.

He described the new rules as the culmination of his administration's effort to update the state's standards and to reduce people's exposure to what he called harmful flame retardants.

“Today, California is curbing toxic chemicals found in everything from high chairs to sofas,” Brown said at the time. “These new standards will keep the furniture in our homes fire-safe and limit unnecessary exposure to toxic flame retardants.”

The governor said that numerous studies have found links between exposure to chemicals used as flame retardants used in upholstered furniture and cancer and fertility problems.

Brown said that the new standards will still protect people from the most common ignition sources of fires, mainly smouldering sources such as cigarettes, space heaters and extension cords.

Brown noted that several manufacturers have said that they will no longer need to use flame retardants, since they can meet the new standards by using more smoulder-resistant cover fabrics or smoulder-resistant barriers beneath the cover fabrics.

Overall, the previous standards mainly focused on filling material, said Tonya Blood, chief of the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation.

The new standards address the cover fabric, where the fire begins, Blood said, and they focus on the interactions of the cover fabric and the filling materials.

By: Al Greenwood
+1 713 525 2645

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