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ENSURING SAFE FURNITURE
WITHOUT FLAME RETARDANTS


A comprehensive European fire safety strategy needs to address the causes of fire, modern day fire risks and impact on fire toxicity. Flammability standards need to combine objectives of effective fire safety and chemical safety, ending the presumption that fire safety is best met by using flame retardants. It shall give special attention to the toxicity of fires caused by the presence of chemicals as a field of growing concern. Such strategy should carefully balance the compliancy to flammability requirements with chemical and environmental risks.

The promotion of a fire safety culture plays a key role in terms of education to consumers on tools (e.g. sprinklers and fire alarms) and behavioural changes that would increase fire safety and save lives.

The alliance for flame retardant free furniture proposes an EU approach using smoulder ignition tests instead of open flame tests that require the use of flame retardants. This approach takes into account the flammability requirements, chemical exposure and consumers’ protection to make safe fire safety possible.

In particular the Alliance calls on

  • European Institutions to develop an EU harmonised approach to safe fire safety, using the smoulder ignition test and not the open flame test for furniture products needing to meet fire safety requirements 

  • National authorities to stop imposing open-flame tests for domestic furniture in light of their questionable effectiveness in reducing fires

  • National and local authorities to require smoulder ignition tests in their public tenders for furniture products, as highlighted in EU GPP criteria

  • Standardisation bodies to develop a more balanced and harmonised approach to fire safety, constantly evaluating chemical safety and fire toxicity risks in setting new products’ flammability standards

  • The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to speed up its work in banning harmful flame retardants and encourage non-chemical based innovation in industry 

  • Furniture manufacturers to reconsider product design to avoid unnecessary use of flame retardant chemicals


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INNOVATION rather than INTOXICATION

The process of identifying alternatives to flame retardants should include not only alternative chemicals but also innovative changes in the design of products, industrial processes, and other practices that do not require the use of any flame retardant. 

San Antonio Statement, more than 200 worldwide experts.

The regrettable solution dilemma

"We have often heard the argument that "safe" FRs can be used to meet an open flame standard. Our research shows that the functionality required for a chemical to act as FR translates to a chemical or chemical mixture that is toxic and/or environmentally persistent. Moreover, the most economical FR used to meet open flame tests in upholstered furniture have a very high probability of being toxic and/or persistent.

There is a time lag of many years between the introduction of a "new" flame retardant and demonstration of its environmental and/or health consequences. While research is being conducted to investigate the hazard/safety of the flame retardants, that chemical is used to meet flammability standard in new products".

Professor Miriam Diamond, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Toronto. 

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