Flammability Observer

This section covers recent developments, including legislative, regulatory, recalls, and litigation filings and settlements relating to issues of fire and flammability.

Flammable Sunscreens Ignite Even After Applied

Arizona, Texas, Alabama, Kansas, and Hawaii Forbids Home Sprinklers Laws (August 2012)

Pajamas Fail to Meet Flammability Rules, Recalled by CPSC

Smarter Smoke Alarm - Can Tell Real Danger from Nuisance Smoke

Sprinklers Save Fraternity Lives at Halloween Party (10-2011)

New York and New Jersey Propose Furniture Flammability Bills

Nevada School Bus Law Incorporates Stringent Cal TB 133 Flammability Standards for Seat Cushions

California Becomes 35th State to Require CO Alarms

CPSC Recalls Containers of Gel Fuel for Potential "Burn Dangers"

Texas Proposes California Based Upholstered Furniture Flammability Standard

Virginia Rejects Residential Sprinkler Mandate of Newly Enacted 2009 IRC – Sept. 2010

State Fire Marshal testifies before CPSC 8-11-10 about the need for better flammability standards for upholstered furniture and clothing, and praises Federal Mattress flammability standard.

SOUTH CAROLINA ADOPTS MANDATORY RESIDENTIAL FIRE SPRINKLERS FOR NEW CONSTRUCTION (3-4-2010)

Furniture Fire Articles

Two of Foster Law Firm's Furniture Fire Cases Featured by Charleston S.C. Post and Courier's "Hidden Killer", a two part Expose on the National Furniture Flammability Problem (2009)

Fire Escape Smoke Hood
The maker of this escape hood states a user has at least 30 minutes of smoke and toxic product filtration time, to escape a smoke filled building. See a video demonstration at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j34lmfTnQtE&feature=email

Violation of Federal Mattress Flammability Standard Prompts Recall of Sofa-bed Mattresses by IKEA (Aug. 27,2009)
Smoke Alarm Government Study Estimate Escape Times may be too Short with Modern Furnishings Fires
Six Reported Deaths Prompt Urgent Re-announcement of Blair Recall of Women's Chenille Robes
CPSC Recalls Products with No Injuries Reported while Allowing Furniture Fires to Maim and Kill Without Recall or Regulation
Maytag Voluntarily Recalls 1.6M Refrigerators - Mar. 11 2009
CPSC Recalls Boys PJ's Due to Risk of Burn Injury - Jan. 2009
Fourth Circuit Affirms Grant of Summary Judgment to Franchisor Choice Hotels in Comfort Inn Fire Case
50 Million Alabama Verdict for Exploding Water Heater
Technical Bulletin 603 -- Requirements and Test Procedure for Resistance of a Mattress/Box Spring Set to a Large Open-Flame
CPSC Mattress Rule July, 2007
EFRA Home Fires February 2008-1
Fire Flammability Expert Gordon Damant takes Issue with CPSC's Recall Process
Comfort Inn Fire in the Greenville News April 11, 2007
Jail Mattresses Safer Than The One You Sleep On At Home
NASFM Petition March 2007
NASFM Seeks to Classify Polyurethane Foam as a Hazardous Material
CPSC Commissioner against Pre-emption of its Mattress Flammability Act
"CPSC Announces Mattress Standard"
Fire Safe Cigarettes
FOSTER LAW FIRM PUBLISHES FURNITURE FLAMMABILITY ARTICLE
SIX DEATHS - FIVE INJURIES IN MOBILE HOME FIRE FUELED BY FOAM FILLED SOFA
HOTEL FIRE CASE
FLAMMABLE HAIR CARE PRODUCTS
Attorney Robin Foster Appears in Television News Stories Over Furniture Fire Risks
FURNITURE FIRE LITIGATION - FOSTER LAW FIRM, L.L.C.
Alabama Furniture Fire Cases
Georgia Furniture Fire Case
Kentucky Furniture Fire Case
South Carolina Furniture Fire Case
FIRE RETARDANT CHEMICALS
CALIFORNIA BANS USE OF TWO FIRE RETARDANT CHEMICALS AFTER 2008
UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE INDUSTRY CONCEDES FLAMMABILITY REGULATION A REALITY
Gas Fired Appliances
Furniture Fire Safety Act
Flammable Clothing
Futon Flammability Recall
Flammable Playpen
Smoke Detector
Treble Damages In Products Cases
Halogen Floor Lamp Fires

50 Million Alabama Verdict for Exploding Water Heater

An Alabama jury returned a 50 Million dollar verdict, which included 37.5 M in punitive damages, against manufacturer A.O.Smith Water Products Co. Oct. 18,2007, to the family of a 55 year old real estate broker, who was killed when he attempted to relight a pilot light with an electric starter button, causing an explosion of gas which had collected in the area. The family immediately had problems with the hot water heater after moving into their new Mobile, Al. home. The builder told the owner Kranz to contact the subcontractor who installed the heater, who in turn contacted the manufacturer after unsuccessful attempts to replace the thermocouple. The manufacturer sent a repairman to the home who was not familiar with the new 2003 industry safety standard which called for use of a FVIR (flammable vapor ignition resistant technology) device. He called the A.O. Smith Care center who directed him in replacing the control valve. The manufactuer's policy required the Co. to determine the qualifications of the contractor, which the repr. failed to do. The Co. further failed to verify the correct part number which resulted in installation of a 7 year old valve which destined the heater for an explosion. The error resulted in a collection of gas in the flue stack and into the garage, which ignited when Kranz clicked the restart button, which sent the garage door 145 feet into the street. Kranz was burned over 90% of his body, and died 4 days later.

NASFM Seeks to Classify Polyurethane Foam as a Hazardous Material

Because of the extreme flammability properties of polyurethane foam of the type commonly used in residential upholstered furniture, the NASFM in March 2007 petitioned the DOT to require transporters of foam to follow strict procedures to protect the public, particularly first responders to emergencies who could be seriously injured or killed by ignition of such material while being transported. 72 FR 15184, March 30, 2007. The association cited reports that the material has "flammability properties of well-established hazardous materials such as gasoline, which react in liquid and vapor phases". Rather than assigning the foam to Class 4 as a flammable solid, NASFM recommends that it be placed within Class 9, for unusual but clearly hazardous materials. The DOT sought public comments through June 28,2007. Click here to view 74 FR 15184.

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CPSC Commissioner against Pre-emption of its Mattress Flammability Act

The CPSC issued its mattress flammability rule in January 2005 which became effective for all new mattresses made after July 1, 2007. Two weeks before the vote, the mattress industry was successful in causing the commission to add a preemption clause in the preamble to the Act. There was no time for public comment and the Act passed. Commissioner Thomas Moore filed a statement strongly objecting to the sudden inclusion of language which could be interpreted as preempting state law, citing language in the Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA) preventing the commission from preempting state tort law.

As a result of requests by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to the CPSC in 2007 for proposals to improve and strengthen the agency. Mr. Moore made legislative proposals which request Congress to clarify whether the FFA, among other legislation passed, preempt a litigant's right of redress for personal harm caused by a product which complies with standards promulgated under these Acts. Moore's position is that they should not, citing Section 25(a) of the CPSA which states "compliance with consumer product safety rules or other rules or orders under this Act shall not relieve a person from liability under common law or under State statutory law to any other person." 15 USC sec. 2074. He believes that this should apply to the mattress flammability standard, as well as other standards issued by the CPSC under all Acts it administers.

He also proposed an amendment to sec. 37 of the CPSA to require that companies who have three or more lawsuits filed against them involving the same product must report to the commission the alleged hazard, as opposed to three lawsuit settlements, as it now reads.

As the U. S. Supreme Court prepares to take on several preemption cases during the fall 2007 term, Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt, condemned the Bush administration for its concerted effort to impose federal rules. He said, "When the administration attempts to override the efforts of state authorities to provide meaningful health, safety and consumer protections, all Americans are more vulnerable."

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"CPSC Announces Mattress Standard"

On February 16, 2006, the Consumer Products Safety Commission voted in favor of a mattress flammability standard relating to open flame ignitions of mattresses, which applies to all mattresses manufactured on or after July, 2007. The standard is a performance base standard in which the mattress is exposed to two gas burners emitting the amount of flaming heat represented by typical bedclothes or bed coverings. In order to pass the test, the mattress must not have a peak heat release rate greater than 200 kilowatts of heat energy during the first 30 minutes of the test and cannot develop more than more than 15 Mega - Joules in total heat released during the first 10 minutes of the test . This is essentially the same standard adopted by the State of California in 2005 for all mattresses sold in the state after the effective date. The performance standard is designed to make mattresses burn more slowly and less intensely, to allow greater escape time.

The CPSC also included a last minute preamble, which was disseminated two weeks before the vote in the public domain which calls for a broad federal preemption of any state laws or requirements, which are not identical to the federal standard.

16 CFR 1633 Final Rule: Standard for the Flammability (Open Flame) of Mattress Sets CPSC Mattress Rule July 2007

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Fire Safe Cigarettes

While New York was the first state to adopt legislation requiring all cigarettes sold in the state after 2004 to pass NIST standard SRM 1082, which requires that no more than 25% of forty cigarettes burn their full length when placed on 10 layers of filter paper, all designed to reduce ignition of upholstered furniture, mattresses and other common household products, as of June 2009, 47 states have enacted similar legislation.

It is believed that by the end of 2009, all 50 states will either have such regulation in effect or at least have the legislation filed. To learn more about fire safe cigarettes and get a state by state update, go to firesafecigarettes.org

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FOSTER LAW FIRM PUBLISHES FURNITURE FLAMMABILITY ARTICLE

Robin Foster co-authored an article on the legal and technical aspects of furniture flammability litigation which was published by ATLA in the November 2005 edition of Trial magazine. Click here to view the article.

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SIX DEATHS - FIVE INJURIES IN MOBILE HOME FIRE FUELED BY FOAM FILLED SOFA

Foster Law Firm, L.L.C. was associated as counsel for plaintiffs in claims filed in May and July, 2004, against upholstered furniture maker Futuristic, Inc., of Bean Station, Tennessee, and a mobile home manufacturer, Oakwood Homes (now in bankruptcy). The claims arise out of a July 9, 2003, Jacksonville, North Carolina fire, started in the manufactured home occupied by the plaintiffs, by a mentally challenged child, who ignited a candle with a cigarette lighter.

The polyurethane foam filled couch, made by Futuristic, Inc., ignited and within minutes, filled the mobile home with intense heat as well as thick, black toxic smoke, trapping 6 of his siblings, who perished in the fire. His mother, along with help from neighbors, was finally able to break out a bedroom window, where 4 children were rescued, but sustained severe smoke inhalation injuries. The mother nearly bled to death from the lacerations caused by the large shards of glass which remained in the window frame, which was not made of safety glass.

The plaintiffs allege the sofa was excessively flammable and exhibited a high rate of fire growth, with release of high heat and toxic by-products of combustion. Plaintiffs allege construction defects in the manufactured home, including inadequate draft stops, emergency egress windows and smoke alarms. The cases are styled Boyd Tisdale, Administrator of the Estate of Amanda Leigh Ann Turner, Estate of Doreen Shavanet Oates, Estate of Jessie LaMont Oates, Jr., Estate of QuaNesh Maria Lavette Oates, Estate of Diamond Faith Carol Perez, and Estate of Angela Lynette Avila, vs. Futuristic, Inc. and Oakwood Homes Corporation, Case No. 04 CVS 1714 and Boyd Tisdale, Guardian ad Litem for Lauren Ashley Oates, Anthony Oates, Sharetha Lanae Oates, and Latasha Tashae Oates, and Mary Alice Turner, as mother of Lauren Ashley Oates, Anthony Oates, Sharetha Oates, Latasha Tashae Oates, vs. Futuristic, Inc., Case No. 04 CVS 2084 (Onslow County). The parties reached a confidential settlement in March 2007.

California TB 603

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HOTEL FIRE CASE

Foster Law Firm, LLC was associated as counsel for 11 victims, including the estate of a young mother leaving behind 2 children, and a man sustaining severe pulmonary problems, as against a Comfort Inn franchisee, RG Hospitality, LLP, and its franchiser, Choice Hotels International, Inc., arising out of a January 25, 2004 fire started by an arsonist on the 3rd floor hallway of this Greenville, South Carolina hotel. A total of 6 people were killed and 12 seriously injured. Plaintiffs allege that a number of factors contributed to cause the deaths and injuries, including inadequate security which allowed entrance of the arsonist through an unsecure rear door, inadequate response by the hotel night clerk to the activation of the fire alarm, the failure of the hotel to have the sprinklers it advertised, and as required, and existence of flammable building materials in the hallway which greatly accelerated the fire, with associated smoke and toxic products of combustion. The plaintiffs settled with a francisee in November 2006, after selection of a jury, for a confidential amount. Summary judgment was granted to the franchisor, Choice Hotels, in the cases pending in Federal Court and is on appeal to the Fourth Circuit. ( See excerpts from Greenville News story April 11, 2007)

Elsie Marie Allen,as PR of the estate of Donna Lea Swaim, deceased AND William E Harrell Jr. VS. Greenville Hotel Partners, Inc., R.G.Hospitality, LLC and Choice Hotels International Inc.,C A Nos. 6:042327-20 and 6:042328-20 Filed July 14, 2004

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Fourth Circuit Affirms Grant of Summary Judgment to Franchisor Choice Hotels in Comfort Inn Fire Case

The conservative Forth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to a large hotel franchisor, Choice Hotels, in 4 cases ( two deaths and 2 serious injuries) arising out of a Jan. 24, 2004 Comfort Inn fire in Greenville S.C. The victims contended that the issue of whether a duty was owed by a franchisor to a guest of a franchisee should have been certified to the S.C. Supreme Court because no S.C. appellate court had ever considered the issue. No S.C. case was found by either party or the Court. The Court went on to interpret basic S.C. negligence law to hold that there was insufficient control or right of control exercised by Choice over the franchisee, despite the fact that Choice set forth detailed requirements for life safety, and, in particular, fire safety measures such as smoke alarms, fire retardant drapery and wastebasket requirements. When it came to fire sprinklers, Choice had the power to require them, but only recommended them instead. Choice controlled this aspect of the hotel requirements, the failure which related to the very instrumentality that caused the injuries and deaths. Plaintiff's experts stated the standard of care, based upon other large franchisors, required retrofitting with sprinklers as a condition to grant a franchise. The Court simply did not agree that Choice had the requisite control despite this evidence and argument. SC Lawyers Weekly News Story - May 12,2008 - National chain not liable in fatal hotel fire

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FLAMMABLE HAIR CARE PRODUCTS

Foster Law Firm, L.L.C. was associated for the plaintiff in a case filed October 21, 2003, Tony Pixley as Personal Representative of the Estate of Frankie Pixley vs. J. M. Products, Inc., House of Cheatham and SC Department of Mental Retardation, Case No. 2003-CP-32-3959, filed in Lexington County, South Carolina. On November 2, 2002, plaintiff's decedent accidentally ignited her hair while lighting a cigarette. Her hair had been treated with oil sheen hairspray and a petroleum based gel product which caused the decedent's hair to ignite and burn rapidly, dripping burning liquid hair care products onto her clothing, severely burning her. After six weeks in intensive care in a burn center, including 17 surgeries and 1.9 million dollars in medical expenses, the decedent succumbed to her injuries and died. The case was settled in December of 2005.

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Attorney Robin Foster Appears in Television News Stories Over Furniture Fire Risks

April 2004

Two legal actions against US furniture manufacturers concerning the consequences of their products flammability have been settled out of court. The Attorney, Robin Foster, acting for a burn victim families, has described the flammability of (non fire safety treated) foam in furniture as a "design flaw."

Both CBS News and Extra-TV US have broadcast information on polyurethane foam (PUF) in furniture, including interviews of firefighters, and fire victims, fire tests and real fire video footage, and statements from the US PUF industry (transcripts and videos accessible free online at the TV stations sites). The CBS video compares foam in domestic furniture with the PUF used as soundproofing material in the Station Nightclub, Rhode Island, where a tragic fire killed 99 people and injured 190 on February 23, 2003. Firefighters accuse PUF in furniture of being "solid gasoline."

Extra-TV also carried out comparative burn tests, showing that fire-safety treated foam in furniture melts in contact with a flame but does not burn, whereas untreated foam goes up in flames. Robin Foster, attorney acting for a fire victims family states that deaths due to furniture fires are "occurring about two times a day in America because of upholstered furniture and the polyurethane foam within. I don't believe that's an accident. I believe that's a design flaw". Ikea, Spieger and Serta are cited as furniture manufacturers who voluntarily are applying the California State requirements for domestic furniture fire safety across the US. The cost of fire proofing a settee is quoted as US$25 "the price of three pizzas". The US Polyurethane Foam Association is quoted as declining an interview but stating that even FR materials can burn.

Foster is quoted by Extra-TV as stating that "many furniture makers throw away warning labels that come attached to the foam" and that the furniture company with which this lawsuit was settled "admitted to removing labels so as not to frighten consumers."

A similar story has also been run by WXIA-TV Atlanta, including fire tests carried out on mattresses and furniture by Atlanta Fire Department. The case of a fire victim who suffered grievous burns following a fire starting in a Love Seat is presented. This case was brought be the two Attorneys Robin Foster and Kirk Morgan. The furniture manufacturer is cited as having agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the victim. A follow up story on the same channel presented Serta Mattress Company's policy of fire safe mattresses.

CBS News (Early Show 17th February 2004): transcript, free access to full video of programme including interviews, fire test and real fire footage...

See the story at CBS News

Home: http://www.cbsnews.com/

Station Nightclub fire (West Warwick, Rhode Island, Maine) 2003:
http://www.cefic-efra.com/pdf/0503/Nightclub.pdf and
http://www.cefic-efra.com/pdf/2003.06/nightclubfilm603.pdf

Serta Mattress Company: safer mattresses press release (use of FireBlocker FR):
http://www.serta.com/media_cares.php

National Fireproofing Company (NFC) Flamex (includes fire test demo video):
http://www.natfire.com

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FURNITURE FIRE LITIGATION - FOSTER LAW FIRM, L.L.C.

Alabama Furniture Fire Cases

Foster Law Firm, L.L.C. was associated as counsel for plaintiffs by Alabama counsel in a furniture flammability action against furniture manufacturers La-Z-Boy, Inc., England, Inc. of New Tazwell, Tennessee, and Rent-A-Center, a consumer lease to own company in a case removed July, 2002 to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Case No. CV-02-S-1728 NE and CV-02-H-1729-NE, and involving the deaths of twin children and serious injuries to their mother from a June 14, 2000 fire which occurred when a candle fell from a wall sconce to the floor igniting a sectional sleeper sofa containing large quantities of non-fire retardant polyurethane foam both in the sofa and mattress. The highly flammable foam accelerated the fire rapidly, causing the injury and deaths. The occupants initially tried to fight the small fire without success as it rapidly grew to dramatic proportions, releasing thick dark toxic smoke and gases. The case settled in September 2003.

Foster Law Firm, L.L.C. was associated in April, 2001 by Alabama counsel in a furniture flammability action against Style Line Furniture Company of Tupelo, Mississippi. The April 13, 1998 fire resulted in the deaths of four (4) children, as well as serious burn injuries to their mother. The suit alleges the fire, which began in the Style Line sofa, and accelerated by the extremely flammable materials of construction, caused the injury and deaths. The parties reached a confidential settlement of the case in April, 2002.

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Georgia Furniture Fire Case

Foster Law Firm, L.L.C. was associated by Georgia counsel in a furniture flammability case on behalf of the plaintiff, alleging excessive flammability of an upholstered couch which was ignited from an electrical source and due to highly flammable components of construction, accelerated the resulting fire and smoke by-products causing severe burn injuries and extensive smoke inhalation injuries. The case is pending in Bibb County Superior Court, and styled Helen Swain vs. Macon Trading Post, Inc., Mike Faulkner, d/b/a Faulkner Furniture Company, Houston Furniture Supply and Superior Product Sales, Inc., 01-CV-14937 and was brought against the retailer (Macon Trading Post), furniture manufacturer (Faulkner Furniture Company), polyfoam supplier (Houston Furniture Supply, Inc.) and polyfoam manufacturer (Superior Product Sales, Inc.). The case was filed November, 2001 and was resolved in 2004.

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Kentucky Furniture Fire Case

Foster Law Firm, L.L.C. was associated by Kentucky counsel in a case on behalf of the husband of his 24 year old wife and the estates of three (3) young children who perished in a residential home fire involving a Berkline sectional sofa manufactured by the Berkline Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lifestyle Furnishings International, LTD and purchased/leased from Rent-Way, Inc. The sofa was ignited on May 29, 2000, by a child playing with a cigarette lighter. The fire accelerated quickly to dramatic proportions as a result of the flammable materials of the sofa's construction, causing the deaths of these individuals. The amended complaint was filed December, 2001 in Jefferson Circuit Court and the case is styled Scott Logsdon, Individually and as Administrator for the Estates of Leslie Hibbs, Faith Hibbs, Destiny Hibbs and Forrest Hibbs vs. The Berkline Corporation, Lifestyle Furnishings International, LTD, Rent-Way, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 01-CI-03640. The case was resolved in 2005.

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South Carolina Furniture Fire Case

In May 1999, Foster Law Firm reached an out of court settlement in an upholstered furniture fire case on behalf of the estate of a 26 year-old female who was killed as a result of a residential home fire and her 28 year-old husband who was burned over 85% of his body while trying to rescue his family from the burning home. Motts v. Mohasco Upholstered Furniture Corp., Civil Action Numbers 97-CP-42-1460; -1461; and -1462 (click here for full case summary, and see also, CBS TV "Extra" and our Video Fire Gallery

CPSC Report shows 43% decline in deaths from lighter fires.

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FIRE RETARDANT CHEMICALS

NRC Health Risk Study of Fire Retardant Chemicals

In 1993, the National Association of Fire Marshals petitioned CPSC to issue a performance based flammability standard for residential upholstered furniture to reduce the risk of residential fires. If promulgated, most residential upholstery fabric would be back coated or treated with flame retardant (FR) chemicals. In 1999, CPSC commissioned the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council (NRC) to conduct a study concerning health risks posed by exposure to FR chemicals that are likely to be used in residential upholstered furniture, identifying sixteen (16) separate chemicals. The study was completed and the results were released in the summer of 2000.

The NRC found that the following FRs could be used on residential furniture with minimal risk, even under worse case assumptions:

  • hexabromocyclododecane
  • decabromodiphenyl oxide
  • alumina trihydrate
  • magnesium hydroxide
  • zinc borate
  • ammonium polyphoshates
  • phosphonic acid
  • taktrakis hydroxymethyl phosphonium salts

CALIFORNIA BANS USE OF TWO FIRE RETARDANT CHEMICALS AFTER 2008

Gray Davis (governor), before leaving office, signed a law August, 2003, banning the use of two fire retardant chemicals after 2008. They are two members of the bromide flame retardant group, PBDE's, namely "Penta" and "Octa" chemicals, additives used in a variety of products in our environment. Pentabrome has been used as a fire retardant for polyurethane in the U.S., along with many other flame retardant chemicals and systems. Alternate technologies are available. There are no known cases specifically linking these fire retardant chemicals in fire retardant polyurethane foam to any health problems. No study suggests that the incidents are any greater in California than other states, which is significant, since fire retardant chemicals have been used in upholstered furniture in California since 1975, the only state regulating residential upholstered furniture flammability.

Hickory Springs Vice President, Bobby Bush, discusses his company's plan to use alternative fire retardant chemicals in its fire retardant polyurethane foam 11-4-03. See http://pfa.org/pub

"THE STATION" nightclub fire in Providence, Rhode Island February 20, 2003, killed 100 people. It has been blamed on excessive flammability of polyurethane foam, the type used in upholstered furniture. See the story at Providence Journal for an in depth look at the flammability problem with polyurethane foam in this four part series in The Providence Journal, by G. Wayne Miller and Peter Lord.

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UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE INDUSTRY CONCEDES FLAMMABILITY REGULATION A REALITY

The CPSC held one of many public meetings September 24, 2003 concerning the issue of upholstered furniture flammability. The industry seems to have come to grips and recognized the problem. Furniture makers and component suppliers are setting forth alternatives to make upholstered furniture less ignitable and less flammable, realizing that, like it or not, something is going to be done. The end result is not clear, although recommendations have been made to offer manufacturers alternatives to comply with any new flammability regulations, including the use of fire retardant fabric backcoating treatments, use of fire resistive barrier materials between fabric and foam, designed to protect or delay ignition of flammable filling materials beneath, as well as flammable foams and filling materials. Hopefully significant positive improvements in flammability are around the corner and at a minimum, will include requirements for reduced post ignition fire growth rates.

Senator Fritz Hollings proposes upholstered furniture flammability regulations in Congress, October 30, 2003. See American Home Fire Safety Act.

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Gas Fired Appliances

The CPSC, August 12, 1999, awarded the Chairmen's Commendation to the American Water Heater Company for a technology that prevents gas water heater flammable vapor flashback ignitions which currently cause nearly 2,000 fires per year with resulting death and injuries. The design, presented as the Flame Guard TM Safety System, restricts the flame, preventing it from flashing out from the water heater in the presence of flammable vapors. It was to become available to the consuming public in late 1999.

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Furniture Fire Safety Act

U.S. House member DeLauro introduced a bill March 8, 2000, to add the "Furniture Fire Safety Act" to the Consumer Product Safety Act. The bill would require all residential furniture shipped in interstate commerce to have stern warning labels concerning the flammability hazard of polyurethane foam and would require furniture to be flammability performance tested in compliance with the standards set forth in California Bureau of Home Furnishings Technical Bulletin, Number 117 and Number 116. The standard would take effect two years from passage. This bill was referred May 3, 2000, to the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trad and Consumer Protection.

CPSC 2006 Briefing Package on Upholstered Furniture Announced January 30, 2006

CPSC invited public comment, scheduled a public hearing June 18, 19, 2002 on the furniture flammability issue and proposed standards.

CPSC 2001 Briefing Package on upholstered furniture flammability

CPSC prepared in October, 2001, a further briefing package on the furniture flammability issue which supplements its work in the 1997 package. This package can be viewed by clicking above and downloading the respective files with Adobe Acrobat Reader.

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Flammable Clothing

A jury awarded $20 Million Dollars in favor of a university laboratory technician whose 65% polyester/35% cotton blend lab coat caught fire from burning vapors from chemicals she was mixing for student use. Her medical expenses were approximately $200,000.00 and she missed a year of employment at $25,000.00. She sued the manufacturer of the coat alleging that the material used was highly flammable and that the use of the blended material prevented the fabric from falling apart, allowing the melting polyester to be kept closer to the skin, increasing the extent of her burns and scars. Weigl v. Quincy Specialties Company, NY, New York County Sup. Ct., No. 18321/92, December 8, 2000.

On December 9, 1999, The Gap recalled 231,000 pairs of children's polyester pajamas, Style Numbers 353558, 353554, 733002, 733032, 466291, and 674060, when the pajamas failed to meet children's sleepwear flammability standards.

2) Skivvydoodles - A new 100% cotton Flame retardant fabric for use in childrens sleepwear, sold by Target, Gymboree, L.L. Bean at $26 - 38 per set maintain cpsc sleepwear flame test requirements after 50 machine washings.

The CPSC has launched "Operation SOS", or Safe Online Shopping. The CPSC investigators will monitor the internet for possibly dangerous and illegal consumer products according to chairperson Ann Brown. The investigators will pose as online consumers, will use computers and telephone lines that cannot be traced to CPSC or other governmental agencies, and use non-governmental credit cards and shipping addresses. Once the items purchased are delivered, they will be examined for compliance with Federal safety standards. Dangerous products already discovered in this fashion include flammable children's sleepwear.

Eddie Bauer has recalled 2,000 "Made in USA" men's sweatshirts, Items 1313 or 1249, as they raise significant flammability concerns. 1-800-426-6253.

Henlow USA, Inc., New York, recalled 2,100 ladies' robes. Five styles were recalled due to flammability concerns. 1-800-889-7443.

The William Carter Company of Morrow, Georgia, is recalling 1,000 girls' nightshirts after finding that they could ignite easily, causing burn injuries. They are made with 100% polyester fabric with a pattern of brown bears wearing pink pajamas, and the words "p.j. bear" printed on a white background. Identification code (GPU CF9761). Call 1-888-339-2129 for instructions on returning them. August, 2000.

Six Reported Deaths Prompt Urgent Re-announcement of Blair Recall of Women's Chenille Robes, April 2009.

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Futon Flammability Recall

The Standard Mattress Co. of Hartford, Connecticut, recently recalled 47,000 futons because the fire retardant boric acid was not evenly distributed and the futons failed the cigarette ignition test. Standard agreed to pay a civil penalty of $60,000.00. The CPSC reports that Standard also failed to test and keep proper records.

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Flammable Playpen

A Sioux Falls, South Dakota, family whose infant son was disfigured in a playpen fire, brought suit against the manufacturer and retailer of the product, a Cosko Corporation Play Pads Model 18361, sold by Kolcraft Products of North Carolina to the plaintiffs in 1991. The suit alleges that the playpen had a pad filled with flammable polyurethane foam covered with vinyl which, on January 12, 1992, caught fire and engulfed 11 month-old Daniel Boone in flames. The suit claims the companies failed to warn consumers that the product had flammable material, asks the court to order the companies to stop selling playpens with flammable polyurethane padding, and seeks damages. According to counsel, the case is headed for trial in late 2000. Peggy J. Boone, as GAL of Daniel Boone v. Cosco Corporation, et al., Civ. No. 97-972616, County of Minnehaha.

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Smoke Detector

On February 11, 1998, an Iowa jury returned verdicts for $8.8 million compensatory damages and $12.5 million punitive damages against Pittway Corp. and BRK Brands, Inc., in a multiple death and burn injury case alleging a product defect in a BRK Brands Model 83R battery powered ionization type smoke detector in the plaintiff's apartment which did not alert the plaintiffs to the fire. This smoke detector has also sold under the names "First Alert", "Family Guard", and "Wake and Warn". BRK Brands, Inc., is a subsidiary of First Alert, Inc. The plaintiffs claimed that ionization detectors tend to respond slowly to smoldering fires and quickly to flaming fires when compared to photoelectric type detectors, and plaintiffs' claimed that ionization type detectors were defective if sold and installed as the only smoke detection device. The plaintiffs also presented at trial 400 complaints from customers categorized by the defendants as "no response to smoke".

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Treble Damages In Products Cases --Rep Robert Andrews (D-NJ) introduced HR3459 in November 1999 which would mandate recovery of treble damages in products liability actions in which the product is not in compliance with a voluntary or mandatory CPSC standard. The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee and the Commerce Committee. This bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection, December 3, 1999.

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Halogen Floor Lamp Fires

Halogen Torchiere style floor lamps have a high temperature 500 watt halogen bulb operating in a shallow bowl mounted atop a six foot pole. The CPSC determined in 1997 that these lamps may have been responsible for 189 fires since 1992. The CPSC, together with Underwriters Laboratories and the industry took steps to require a reduced 300 watt bulb covered by a glass or wire guard to reduce the risk of fire. The industry provides the guards free of charge to consumers. (1-800-985-2200)

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Feel free to contact Robert P. Foster, Foster Law Firm, L.L.C., with any questions or comments relating to issues of flammability.