Members will hear testimony regarding the progress made by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in evaluating the need for mandatory fire safety standards for certain household products, including upholstered furniture, mattresses, bedding, and candles, that could reduce the incidence of death and injury in residential fires. Senator Smith will preside.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Hal Stratton
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify at this morning’s hearing on standards for home products fire safety. I appreciate the opportunity to be here this morning to update the Committee on the work of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on the fire hazards that fall under our jurisdiction and to answer any questions that you may have. Any views I express this morning are mine as Chairman of the Commission and not necessarily those of the other Commissioners. Reducing fire deaths is one of our most serious challenges at CPSC, and I would like to thank the Senators for having a hearing today on this very important subject. By way of introduction, the CPSC was established 30 years ago as an independent, bipartisan commission, to protect children and families against unreasonable risks of injury and death from hazardous consumer products. Over that time the work of the CPSC has contributed significantly to the 30% decline in the rate of deaths and injuries from these products. The CPSC enforces five federal statutes, including the Flammable Fabrics Act, and through these laws, the agency has jurisdiction over the safety of some 15,000 types of consumer products. The CPSC is a relatively small agency, with 470 employees including those here at our headquarters and laboratory in the Washington area and also in our field positions across the country. Since the inception of the agency, the annual number of deaths and injuries prevented by just a sample of CPSC activities has reduced societal costs by over $15 billion. Last year, we directed over 280 recalls of unsafe products that involved over 40 million units. Today we are here to talk about fire deaths and injuries, and specifically those fires related to the ignition of upholstered furniture, mattresses, bedding and candles. Reducing fire-related deaths is a key goal in CPSC’s Strategic Plan, and I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this serious problem and CPSC’s current activities and planned initiatives in this regard. Chairman Stratton Statement Page 2 Residential fires result in more deaths than any other hazard under CPSC’s jurisdiction. Children and seniors are particularly vulnerable. In fact, children under five years of age have a fire death rate more than twice the average for all ages. Products most often ignited in fire deaths are upholstered furniture, mattresses and bedding. In recent years, these product categories were associated with about one-third of fire deaths. While deaths due to fire have declined substantially since the 1980s, I believe that still more can be achieved to reduce these tragic deaths. Past standard setting and compliance activities by the CPSC have contributed to this decline including CPSC’s work on cigarette-resistant mattresses, heating and cooking equipment, electrical products, wearing apparel and children’s sleepwear, child-resistant lighters, fireworks, smoke alarms and residential fire sprinklers. This morning, however, I want to specifically discuss our activities on mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture and candles. I would like to begin by giving the Committee a short chronology of the work of the CPSC on these products prior to my tenure. It was in the early 1970’s that the Secretary of Commerce promulgated the original Standard for the Flammability of Mattresses, requiring mattresses to resist ignition by smoldering cigarettes. Authority to administer that standard was transferred to the Consumer Product Safety Commission when it was created in 1972. While smoldering ignition incidents declined over the years after this standard was enacted, mattress fire ignition by open flame sources, primarily involving child-play, emerged as a continuing problem. In 1998 the CPSC staff initiated work with the mattress industry and other interested parties to address this hazard. A test method was developed that could be used in a mandatory standard to reduce associated deaths and injuries. In 2001 CPSC began formal rulemaking procedures for an open flame standard by issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. I should note at this point that the Consumer Product Safety Commission, unlike most agencies, has a three-part rulemaking process that is initiated by an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), followed by a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR), and ended with a notice of Final Rule. With regard to upholstered furniture flammability, CPSC has been working on this hazard since the agency’s inception. The primary focus was initially on the risk of smoldering ignitions from cigarettes since these fires accounted for most of the observed fire losses. A voluntary standard has been in place since 1978 to address this risk and has contributed to the decline in the smoldering hazard. In 1997 CPSC staff forwarded a regulatory options package to the Commissioners concluding that a small open flame standard for upholstered furniture was feasible but recommending that the agency study possible chemical risks associated with flame retardants that might be used on upholstery fabrics to comply with a rule. At that time, the Commission deferred action on the proposed rule and held a public hearing on flame retardant chemicals. CPSC staff started working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a possible Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) for fabric treatments. Subsequently, in CPSC’s Fiscal Year 1999 Chairman Stratton Statement Page 3 appropriation, Congress directed the agency to sponsor an independent study of flame retardant chemicals by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). NAS submitted its report reviewing sixteen flame retardant chemicals to Congress the following year. The report concluded that eight would pose no significant human health risk but recommended further study for the eight others. Subsequently, CPSC staff forwarded a regulatory options package to the Commission recommending that the agency actively share and discuss the large volume of technical information in the package with the public before considering a proposed rule. In July of 2002, CPSC held a public meeting to present the staff’s direction and receive comments and recommendations on an upholstered furniture standard. As I noted earlier, this is an abbreviated chronology, but clearly, the CPSC has a long history of involvement with both mattress and upholstered furniture flammability. I would like to now update the Committee on our more recent activities. On August 2, 2002, I was privileged to be sworn in as Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and to join my able colleagues, Commissioner and Vice Chair Thomas Moore and Commissioner Mary Gall in working to advance the agency’s important mission of making America’s homes, schools and playgrounds safe and secure for America’s families. In particular, shortly after assuming this Chairmanship, and having reviewed all the work being done on product safety by this agency, I identified two projects – upholstered furniture and mattress flammability – as my top priorities and instructed the staff to move these projects forward as quickly as legally possible. Mr. Chairman, I remain convinced that reducing residential fires should be our top priority at the CPSC. There is little question in my mind that these new standards, once complete, will save lives and property. In 2003, I directed the staff to present the Commission with a new, expanded regulatory proceeding to cover both cigarette and small open flame risks for upholstered furniture. I was pleased that my fellow Commissioners agreed with this change, and we voted unanimously in favor of the new, expanded ANPR. I am pleased to report to you this morning that after this long history in the development of a flammability standard for upholstered furniture, a decision package that includes a draft standard will be on my desk and that of the other two Commissioners this Fall. I am also pleased to report to the Committee that CPSC staff is finalizing a draft standard to be included in a decision package on mattress flammability. This decision package on mattresses will also be presented to the Commissioners this Fall. I can assure you that the Commission will move quickly to make a decision on moving forward with an NPR for mattresses after reviewing the staff analysis within that package. Chairman Stratton Statement Page 4 These two hazards – mattress and upholstered furniture flammability – have been an important priority for my Chairmanship. I have worked closely with staff as well as outside stakeholders to move this process forward as quickly as possible through the data-collection, test methods performance and evaluation, legal checkpoints, public comment and many related procedures that our governing statutes require. Knowing of your deep interest in these products, I am pleased to report the substantial progress we have made to the Committee today. In the thirty year history of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency has never promulgated a regulation with an economic impact of this size – above the $100 million annual impact necessary to qualify as a “major” rule under the Congressional Regulatory Review Act. Our mattress and upholstered furniture standards are each likely to exceed that impact. I would also like to update you on our work with bedclothes flammability. When the Commission issued the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a mattress flammability standard, several commenters suggested that a standard is also needed for bedclothes, which includes such products as comforters, pillows and mattress pads. Research indicates that bedclothes can contribute significantly to the hazard posed by mattress and bedding fires. In response to these comments and research, CPSC staff will include a draft Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on bedclothes as part of the mattress briefing package being presented to the Commissioners this Fall. Both product categories play a role in residential fires, and therefore, we believe it is important to understand and consider the unique interactions they can have when exposed to an open flame source. I would now like to turn our attention to CPSC activities on candle safety. In 1997, with the increasing popularity of candles and the increasing numbers of fires associated with them, the CPSC staff began working with ASTM International, the consensus standards developing organization, to develop voluntary standards for candles and candle products. There are now standards addressing various aspects of the fire hazards associated with candles and candle products including hazard labeling, smoking and the integrity of glass containers. Additional performance requirements are being developed for gel candles and accessories. In March of this year, CPSC received and docketed a petition from the National Association of State Fire Marshals to issue mandatory fire safety standards for candles and candle accessories. The Commission issued a notice in the Federal Register soliciting written comments concerning the petition. CPSC staff is currently reviewing these comments and preparing responses and a recommendation to the Commission. CPSC’s statutes require that the agency rely on voluntary standards when those standards adequately address the hazard and there is substantial conformance with them, and in this regard, CPSC is continuing to work closely with ASTM to finalize the comprehensive voluntary Fire Safety Standard for Candles that covers flame height, secondary ignition, end of useful life and stability. That standard is currently provisional and is expected to be formally approved in January. Chairman Stratton Statement Page 5 In addition to these products, the Commission is also active on other fronts regarding fire safety in the home. CPSC has an important initiative on children’s sleepwear safety with our new Burn Center Reporting System. We will be releasing a report on our findings from that project later this Summer. CPSC is also working to strengthen or develop voluntary standards or codes on a variety of other household products that are sometimes involved in starting fires. Improving the effectiveness of smoke alarms, including wireless technologies and improved audibility, is another project on which the CPSC is working. Obviously, the sooner we can alert residents to the danger of fire in the home, the more quickly they can escape. This is especially important for the elderly and for children. As I noted earlier, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is a small agency with a big mission. We have an impact well beyond our size on America’s families and the safety of their homes, schools and playgrounds. In addition to identifying product hazards and developing standards, CPSC also conducts regular public awareness campaigns to keep the public informed of potential household hazards from fireworks safety to pool drownings. Fire safety is a critical component of this agency’s mission. In my research on these fire hazards, I have intensely learned the human tragedy and family agony of a child lost to a house fire or a severely burned infant who isn’t yet old enough to understand why he or she is in pain every day. I can assure the Committee that those pictures are on my mind as I work on these critical fire issues, and the reduction of this terrible hazard will continue to be one of my top priorities as long as I serve as Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Thank you for having this important hearing today, and I look forward to the opportunity to answer your questions.
Witness Panel 2
Mr. Andy Counts
Introduction Good Morning. I am Andy Counts, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association (AFMA). I want to thank the Members and staff of the Committee for the opportunity to participate in today’s hearing. One of my priorities for the association is to identify opportunities to advance standards for environmental responsibility, workplace safety and product stewardship. I believe you will be pleased to hear of the substantial progress that AFMA, working with CPSC and the other stakeholders here today, has made toward establishing a federal flammability regulation for upholstered furniture. We commend Congress for its interest in this vital safety matter. However, given that CPSC is well on its way to providing the American public with safer furniture, AFMA opposes S. 1798. The bill embraces an untested package of requirements developed by California regulators, which they themselves have declined to finalize. It also removes CPSC from the standards development role that Congress envisioned for the agency, and blocks the use of some of its most important tools for decisionmaking and public input. Industry Profile AFMA companies participate in a highly competitive market characterized by ever-changing style preferences, margin pressure from retailers, and the tendency of consumers to postpone big-ticket purchases if their perceptions of value and function are not met. It is no secret that the last several years have been the most challenging period in the history of the domestic furniture industry. Plants in the Pacific Rim have gained a dominant share of the furniture marketplace, contributing to the loss of 100,000 U.S. furniture jobs and creating real hardship in communities like Sumter, South Carolina; Martinsville, Virginia; and Palatka, Florida. Many of the same regions have experienced job loss and plant closures in the textile industry. In weighing approaches to upholstered furniture flammability, I ask you to consider the continued viability of domestic furniture facilities and the textile operations that supply them with fabrics. History of the Furniture Flammability Project I want to give credit to Chairman Stratton, his fellow Commissioners and the staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Chairman inherited technical challenges and interest group discord that confounded progress on this matter for a number of years. He has helped bring together the stakeholders in pursuit of a workable regulation, and has achieved a remarkable degree of consensus during a relatively brief tenure. It is our understanding that a package regulating both the cigarette and small open flame performance of upholstered furniture could be published this Fall. We can certainly understand the frustration some have expressed about the pace of progress on upholstered furniture flammability. One should not disregard, however, the technical hurdles entailed in achieving fire resistance for a product that is typically covered in fabric and filled with plastics, cellulosics and other cushioning materials. Add to this the differential performance of the tens of thousands of upholstery fabrics on the market, and the synergy between fabrics and filling materials and you begin to grasp the challenge CPSC has shouldered. Previous approaches to this risk tended to single out individual components for regulatory attention. The 1993 petition of the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) identified polyurethane foam as the most significant potential fuel source. However, subsequent testing demonstrated that modification of foam does not by itself meaningfully improve open flame performance. In its 1997 Briefing Package, CPSC staff originally relied solely on fire retardant (FR) treatment of outer fabrics, reasoning that minimizing ignition at the outset avoided the complexities and expense of measuring progressive involvement of other components. However, evidence about the variability in performance of some treated fabrics, along with concerns about consumer acceptance and FR toxicity, led the agency to provide an alternative compliance option involving fire-blocking interliners, a positive development discussed in greater detail below. Consensus Surrounding the Present Approach At present, most interested persons recognize that upholstered furniture fires represent a synergy between fabric, foam and other cushioning materials. This consensus laid the groundwork for a constructive dialogue between producers of furniture, fabrics, fiber, polyurethane foam and flame retardant materials, assisted by input from CPSC staff, testing labs and fire safety advocates. That process resulted in a package of flammability requirements for furniture that were outlined in a May 13 letter from AFMA to Chairman Stratton. The elements of this proposal are summarized below. 1. For upholstery fabrics, the 5-second open flame fabric test utilizing the Technical Bulletin 117 test apparatus, as proposed by the Fabric Coalition. Non-passing fabrics or those for which FR treatment is not desired could be utilized atop an open flame barrier. CPSC is currently working to identify an appropriate test for such barriers. 2. For all foam (any type) used in upholstered furniture, the cigarette and open flame requirements contained in the proposed revision to California Technical Bulletin 117 (“TB-117+”). 3. For all non-foam cushion core materials used in upholstered furniture, the cigarette and open flame requirements of TB-117+ or a comparable test method. 4. For non-foam seat cushion wrapping or topper materials, the requirements of the BS 5852 Source 2 Test for Non-Foam Filling Materials. 5. For any cotton batting used in upholstered furniture, the ASTM E 1353 test with maximum smolder length criteria specified by UFAC. 6. For all non-foam materials used in arm constructions, the filling and padding test of ASTM E 1353 with the maximum smolder length criteria specified by UFAC. This framework has engendered broad support among the key stakeholders. Earlier this week, a letter endorsing it was delivered to Chairman Stratton, signed by representatives of the National Textile Association, the Polyurethane Foam Association, the Upholstered Furniture Action Council, the Decorative Fabrics Association, the Coalition of Converters of Decorative Fabrics and the American Fire Safety Alliance, among others. These organizations are convinced the framework represents a cost-effective, risk-based approach to the most likely ignition scenarios for both small open flame and cigarettes. I should emphasize that cost-effective doesn’t mean cost-free. Price increases are expected for reformulated foam and chemically backcoated fabrics, along with some loss of aesthetics from the replacement of siliconized cushion wraps and toppers with less flammable alternatives. Suppliers of both upholstery fabrics and cushioning will incur R&D and testing expenses as they revamp their products to pass the proposed flammability tests, and to do so using safe and appropriate chemicals. As a result of these changes, consumers will see a noticeable retail upcharge. Even higher costs are foreseeable for products using flame-blocking barriers beneath untreated fabrics. At this point, I would like to briefly describe some of the important elements of our proposal, and how they differ from what is proposed in S. 1798. While comparison is made more difficult by the draft status of the requirements embodied in the bill, I am basing my assessment on the best interpretations of those requirements by technical authorities in government and the private sector. The Open Flame Test for Fabrics AFMA and many of the other parties to this rulemaking support a 5-second open flame test for outer fabrics, as contrasted with the 20-second test referenced in S. 1798. We believe this test accurately models the risk created by children playing with matches and lighters, and allows industry to continue to provide consumers with an array of comfortable and attractive fabrics. The 5-second fabric test was originally developed by researchers from the textile industry. It utilizes a familiar testing apparatus currently used to perform testing of upholstery fabrics under California Technical Bulletin 117. The one-second ignition time employed in TB-117 testing has been extended to five seconds to better model the phenomenon of child fireplay. Textile industry researchers have found that the great majority of current upholstery fabrics fail this test, but that most can be modified through yarn substitution and chemical backcoating to achieve sufficient flame resistance. Under this test, each fabric SKU marketed as upholstery would be tested ten times and evaluated for non-ignition or self-extinguishment. Fabrics could also pass by demonstrating a relatively slow rate of burn (the five-inch test sample could not be consumed in less than 30 seconds). In recent weeks, round robin testing involving nine labs (including CPSC) confirmed that the fabric test reliably predicts fabric performance, and a report on the findings is now being prepared for the administrative record. We are confident that the greater ignition resistance of fabrics meeting the proposed requirement will work in concert with the recommended changes to foam and other cushioning material to provide Americans with significantly safer furniture. It is our view that the 20-second flame test referenced in S. 1798 is unrealistically long. CPSC concluded in 1997 that “many young children would not be expected to hold a flame source in one place for more than several seconds.” This is understandable, given the agency’s finding that most small open flame fires originate on the top of horizontal upholstery cushions or near the crevice between the horizontal and vertical cushions. One need not be a fire scientist to recognize the difficulty of holding a match or lighter for 20 seconds while attempting to direct its flame downward onto a horizontal surface. In addition, textile scientists have found it impossible to reliably achieve resistance to such a sustained ignition source without jeopardizing the qualities that make upholstery appealing. A 20-second requirement in the United Kingdom has resulted in a diminished range of fabric choices, along with poor “hand” and “boardiness.” The editor of a U.K. trade publication said of the fabrics at a 1996 trade show: It makes me sad to think that so few of these exquisite weaves and prints will ever reach the U.K. market, mainly because of our stringent fire retardancy regulations. A number of mills commented that although they would like to export more to the U.K., the application of FR backings would ruin the special feel and texture of the fabric.... The tradeoff between the ignition resistance and marketability of fabrics is illustrated in a chart developed by David Pettey, Director of Product Development for Quaker Fabrics, presented at a March 1, 2004 public meeting of the CPSC. Clearly, as the ignition source progresses from the 5-second test recommended by the majority of stakeholders to the 20-second standard embodied in the pending legislation, the aesthetics and fabric variety demanded by consumers would be sacrificed. Still, the most important reason for not establishing a 20-second test requirement for upholstery fabrics is the simple fact that such a standard cannot be reliably met. The United Kingdom represents to its citizens that upholstery fabrics marketed in that nation pass a 20-second open flame test. Nonetheless, researchers, journalists and even British enforcement authorities have documented compliance levels with that requirement at barely 50 percent. Dr. Kurt Reimann, a research manager at BASF, tested a representative sample of 31 fabrics backcoated and BS5852 certified by an accredited laboratory in the U.K. Seventeen of these failed subsequent small open flame testing. Some of these required multiple treatments in order to pass, and many exhibited a mixture of passing and failing results. AFMA believes that consumer protection is better served by a more sensible fabric requirement which enjoys high compliance levels than a more stringent-sounding standard that is observed largely in the breach. Flame-Blocking Barriers As an alternative to FR treatment of outer fabrics, all stakeholders that we are aware of have endorsed a compliance option in which flame-blocking barriers (also called interliners) are layered between the fabric and cushioning material. No such option is provided by S. 1798. Barriers would be particularly critical at the upper levels of the market, where yarn substitution or chemical backcoating might conflict with customer preferences. The goal of such constructions is not primarily to prevent ignition of the outer fabric, but to limit the progression of fires into internal components such as polyurethane foam and polyester batting. Barrier materials are already used in the United Kingdom, as an alternative to the 20-second fabric test just discussed. Under our proposal, barriers would be qualified using an ignition source meant to model the effect of burning outer fabric. While barriers currently represent a more costly option than backcoating, a national regulation could give rise to economies of scale that bring such materials into wider use. The interliner option would advance public safety while providing furniture manufacturers with compliance flexibility. It would preserve fabric choice by allowing the use of outer fabrics which cannot be reliably FR treated, and those for which treatment would compromise function or consumer appeal. This option would also deal more sensibly with limited run fabrics and customer’s own merchandize (COM’s), for which valuable quantities of fabric would otherwise be consumed by testing. Furniture manufacturers and consumers especially concerned about chemical content would have access to flame resistant product which contains no chemical flame retardants. This could be advantageous in markets where consumer preference, labeling initiatives or regulations discourage the use of flame retardants. Unfortunately, the draft California standard referenced by S. 1798 does not provide a workable interliner option. To use untreated fabrics, a manufacturer would have to conduct composite testing of the fabric, batting, bagging, foam and other materials in each of the potentially thousands of combinations they bring to market. Composite testing is expensive and dangerous, requiring sophisticated measurement and pollution abatement equipment. It is also directly at odds with achieving cost-effective product and high levels of compliance. One flammability expert has noted the unworkability of such tests for monitoring the compliance of furniture with safety standards: [A test] may be highly sophisticated technically and require special facilities and instrumentation. As a consequence it can generally only be performed in a limited number of installations and ...used only for research purposes. It is usually not practical to require such elaborate testing for all possible combinations of filling and fabric materials. For any regulatory purpose, such as the requirement of certification for compliance, it is vital that a quality control test be available that ...does not require highly trained personnel or elaborate equipment. The absence of an interliner alternative and the need to conduct composite testing for all SKU’s of product using untreated fabric is a central flaw of the California approach embodied in S. 1798. Cost-Effectiveness The unrealistically stringent test methods and the burden of composite testing render S. 1798 the most expensive approach yet proposed for residential upholstered furniture. As the Committee is aware, the reduction of flammability risks in the most cost-effective and least disruptive manner is part of the mandate that Congress provided to CPSC. It is also critical to the success of a flammability regulation for upholstered furniture. Improved furniture will only provide additional fire safety if it reaches peoples’ homes, particularly those at greatest risk of residential fire. Furniture is unlike toys, disposable lighters and other products which enjoy a rapid turnover in stock. There are approximately 400 million units of upholstered furniture currently in use in this country, and the average product life is between 15-17 years. New upholstered furniture represents a discretionary purchase for most U.S. consumers. As shown in the chart below, median income households replace sofas and loveseats at a rate of 3.6 percent annually. This figure drops to 2.5 percent among households with annual incomes under $20,000. The replacement of the nation’s furniture stock with more fire-resistant constructions will take place over several generations, even at present prices. Price distortions imposed by careless regulation could deter consumer purchases of new furniture and thereby have a counterproductive effect. Our suppliers indicate that the reformulated and chemically treated components required by S. 1798 would result in a retail upcharge of approximately $100 per chair, and perhaps $145 per sofa. High testing costs would be layered onto these amounts. Policymakers can best promote the interest of consumers by choosing the most practical and cost-effective approach to furniture flammability. Most of the stakeholders present today believe that the AFMA proposal represents that path. The Bill Would Eliminate Decisionmaking Criteria and Transparency S. 1798 would make inapplicable important provisions of the Consumer Product Safety Act and related statutes. Specifically, no assessment of the resulting standard’s costs or benefits would be allowed. The agency would also be blocked from considering the impact of the regulation on the availability of products, or whether less burdensome or more effective alternatives are available. Significantly, the opportunity for interested parties to be heard on the advantages and disadvantages of the standard would be eliminated. These statutory provisions were established by Congress to provide for fairness and transparency in the regulatory process, and to ensure that regulation is accomplished in the manner least disruptive to the consumer marketplace. AFMA believes that adoption of S. 1798 would set an unfortunate precedent for administrative law. Conclusion CPSC is well on its way to providing the American public with safer furniture, and we respectfully recommend that Congress allow that process to proceed. We do encourage you to provide the agency with appropriate oversight and sufficient funding to carry out that task. Related to that point, please recognize that a flammability standard for upholstered furniture, when finalized, will be the most expansive safety standard ever promulgated by CPSC. Hundreds of million of upholstered units will be affected, and many of these will originate in foreign factories. The effectiveness of such a standard will rest with the ability of federal authorities to enforce it. We urge Congress to provide CPSC and Customs authorities with resources sufficient to fairly and effectively monitor the compliance of upholstered furniture with any regulation that is imposed. Biography of Andy S. Counts Andy Counts is Chief Executive Officer of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association (AFMA), the nation's largest trade association for furniture manufacturers and suppliers. Formerly AFMA’s Vice President of Environmental and Technical Affairs, Mr. Counts has been instrumental in the development of consensus-based environmental regulations and product safety standards that impact the furniture industry. He has testified before state and federal policymaking bodies, including the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Prior to joining AFMA, Andy served as a Project Engineer with Malcolm Pirnie, Inc. in Charlotte, NC; as a Plant Engineer with kitchen cabinet manufacturer Merillat Industries; and as a Senior Environmental Engineer with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Andy has a degree in Industrial Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is a Member of the North Carolina Furniture Export Council; a Board member of the International Woodworking Fair; a Past Member of the High Point Market Authority; and President of the Georgia Tech Alumni Association.
Mr. John DeanPresidentNational Association of State Fire Marshals
Click here for a PDF version of Mr. Dean's remarks.
Mr. Norman Chapman
Good morning. My name is Norman Chapman, President & COO of Inman Mills, a textile manufacturer specializing in yarn spinning and weaving. Inman Mills has been in the textile business for over 100 years and is located in South Carolina. We currently employ approximately 500 associates. After back to back record years in 1997 and 1998, our company has been under extreme pressure from imported fabrics and finished products. Since 2001 we have closed 2 plants and laid off over half of our workforce. During these difficult times we have developed many new products in many different markets. Innovation and flexibility is the future of the U.S. textile industry. Fire resistant mattress ticking and interliners are 2 products where we have concentrated much of our effort. In May of 2002 we signed an agreement with McKinnon Land Moran, LLC a North Carolina research and development company to be the exclusive manufacturer of Alessandra yarns and fabrics. These products are sold and distributed by Hanes Industries, a division of Leggett & Platt. Alessandra is patented technology that makes yarns and fabrics resistant to fire. Fabrics that use this technology retain their strength even after they have been exposed to open flame. These fabrics may be used as either interliner barriers or tickings. They keep fire from penetrating and igniting the highly flammable foam found inside most mattresses. This is achieved by manufacturing a core spun yarn that uses a combination of fibers. It is important to emphasize that the Alessandra products use no chemicals to achieve their fire resistant properties. Through continued research, we have been able to improve our Alessandra products and reduce the price to the manufacturer by over 37%. We continue to research ways to improve the product and reduce cost. In addition to Alessandra, Inman Mills also manufactures Fireguard another well recognized fire resistant fabric. Fireguard is patented technology owned and sold by Springs Industries. It has been used for many years in mattresses on Navy ships and submarines. It is also sold in college dormitories and in hotels where fire safety is of great concern. Both technologies are high performance and support the passing of California’s current and former TB 603, Cal 129 and Boston’s IX-11. These fire resistant fabrics have also passed the US Navy’s FR bedding requirement NAVSEA PD 1-00 REV D 25 July 2000. Our company has products that are proven and ready for the market. We feel further delay will be harmful to both our industry and the consumer. Many people die unnecessarily each year in bedding fires. Industry Needs It is our understanding that the following issues are important to the mattress industry: 1. Product(s) selected must reliably support the passage of the current or proposed TB 603 test requirements. 2. FR Products preferably will be compatible with mattress styling and comfort, white in color, breathable, noiseless, soft, and provide comfort. 3. The products must be easily incorporated into manufacturing. 4. They must be invisible to the consumer. 5. New products must be inexpensive and have a minimal cost impact to the consumer. 6. There can be no loss of durability. 7. Critical mass must exist. In other words there must be a variety of options and ample supply to meet market demands. 8. Products must be toxicologically and environmentally safe. We are pleased to advise that numerous woven and nonwoven technologies exist today that meet all of these requirements. Market Size and Capacity According to ISPA’s 2002 unit sales of mattress and box spring data, the US Bedding industry consumes approximately 140 million linear yards of ticking annually. A similar amount of fire resistant barrier product will be required to meet market demand. Due to California’s AB 603 legislation and enforcement date of January 1, 2005 capacity of both fiber and fabrics are readily available to meet this new market need. The capacity to produce Alessandra or Fireguard fabrics alone could reach 24,000,000 yards annualized 6 months from time of commitment. Much of this capacity is available now. Inman can expand beyond this if more capacity is needed. Availability of Other Fibers and Fabrics Through market studies and information obtained at the California hearings in April 2003, we have determined that 107,000,000 lbs of fire resistant blending fibers were available by 3/1/03, which can provide 174,000,000 lyd/yr of 90” wide barrier products for annual consumption. Due to market forces additional fiber capacity is available today. Finished Barrier Producers We know of 21 producers of finished fire resistant barrier products who reportedly have achieved passing test results. Additional names are being added to the list each month. These products are on record as part of the AB 603 hearings held in April 2003. Validation Studies & Conclusion We fully support total implementation of The American Home Fire Safety Act for mattresses as written because it will help substantially reduce residential fire deaths and injuries as well as property damage. Further, the standard is based upon good science and research completed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Our company and our partners have assisted mattress companies and fire resistant component manufacturers in a large number of full-scale independent laboratory tests. REQUIREMENTS OF TB 603 HAVE AND CAN BE CONTINUALLY MET. It is also our belief that this legislation provides a tremendous opportunity to both the consumer and the textile industry. It offers industry the opportunity to make and sell innovative products and gives the consumer safer products. Innovative products are the future of our industry. If we lose our textile industry, think of all of the great new products we will not be able to bring to the market. Thank You
Mr. Bob Higgins
I. Introduction Good morning. My name is Robert Higgins. I am Vice President of Manufacturing and Logistics with Candle-Lite, Inc., in Cincinnati, Ohio, and president of the National Candle Association. I am speaking today on behalf of the National Candle Association. II. The National Candle Association The National Candle Association (“NCA”) is the major trade association representing U.S. candle manufacturers and their suppliers. The NCA consists of nearly 200 member companies, accounting for more than 90 percent of all candles manufactured in the United States. NCA’s leadership and technical expertise in all aspects of candle manufacturing is well established and widely recognized. The NCA has been actively involved in addressing consumer fire-safety issues since 1997, when a growing number of candle fires led the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ask our help in forming an ASTM subcommittee to develop standards on candle fire safety. The result was the formation of the ASTM F-15.45 Subcommittee on Candle Products. The candle industry, CPSC staff and the fire community have all been actively involved in the subcommittee’s deliberations. The National Candle Association takes exceptional pride in the ASTM candle standards developed to date. NCA’s commitment to move forward as rapidly as possible, and the technical expertise contributed by the industry, has propelled the publication of three groundbreaking ASTM candle safety standards in a record 25 months. A fourth standard dealing with candle manufacturing test methods was published earlier this year. A fifth standard dealing with the fire safety of candle accessories is under development. By far the most technically advanced of the ASTM candle-fire safety standards is PS 59-02. This candle-fire safety standard addresses the combustion safety of candles at the manufacturing level through stringent specifications for controlling flame height, stability, end of useful life, and secondary ignition factors. It is PS 59-02 that is cited in S 1798, and a significant focus of my testimony today. III. The Value of Voluntary Standards To make PS 59-02 a mandatory CPSC standard – would result in a giant step backward in efforts to improve candle-fire safety. By statute, the CPSC may issue a mandatory standard only when it finds that a voluntary standard has not adequately reduced the addressed risk of injury or death, or when substantial compliance with the voluntary standard is absent. Neither of these conditions exists in the candle industry. Our members have consistently demonstrated their support for, and compliance with, the ASTM candle standards. PS 59-02 is no exception. Its technically advanced specifications for controlling candle combustion are playing a significant role in reducing candle-related residential fires. Working through ASTM, the candle industry has recently revised and significantly broadened PS 59-02 to now include virtually all candle types in its end-of-useful life requirements. The balloting period on these additions and revisions has just closed. It is anticipated that a final standard incorporating all of these revisions will be published in December of 2004. The ability to add new provisions underscores the significant advantages of a voluntary standard over a mandatory standard. Voluntary standards continually evolve. Mandatory standards are essentially frozen in time. Both ASTM and ANSI standards are regularly reviewed and updated, ensuring that the latest technologies are adopted into their standards. By comparison, incorporating a change or improvement into a mandatory CPSC standard would necessitate undergoing the complex and lengthy amendment procedures required under the Consumer Product Safety Act. IV. Consumer Education Is Key to Reducing Candle Fires Unfortunately, there is no standard -- whether voluntary or mandatory -- that can overcome the fact that the vast majority of candle fires are due to consumer inattention and carelessness. Candles are safe products when used correctly. But educating consumers as to the proper method for burning candles, and increasing their awareness of candle fire safety, is the key to reducing candle fires. Approximately 85 percent of all candle fires are due to consumers leaving lighted candles unattended, placing candles too close to combustibles, or placing candles within the reach of children or pets. This finding prompted the development of the ASTM cautionary labeling standard for candles, and underscored the tremendous importance of educating consumers about candle-fire safety. The National Candle Association is working diligently to educate consumers on the need for vigilance when burning candles. We have created and promoted literature stressing the importance of candle safety. We regularly disseminate these materials and our candle-fire safety message to consumers through the media, our website, our members, non-members, industry groups and retailers, as well as through cooperating fire, safety and consumer organizations around the country. To reach as many consumers as possible, NCA regularly issues press releases, video releases and feature stories on the importance of safety when burning candles. We also have contacted national and regional fire groups, restaurant and hotel associations, mass retailers and others, providing them with information on the ASTM candle standards and encouraging them to join us in promoting candle fire safety. V. Candles Do Not Belong in S 1798. The National Candle Association strongly believes that neither candles nor candle fire-safety standards belong in S 1798. The stated purpose of this bill is to develop standards “to reduce the flammability of candles, mattresses, bed clothing and upholstered furniture.” A burning candle constitutes a source of ignition; it is an open flame. Mattresses, bed clothing and upholstered furniture are items that can be ignited by a flame. This important distinction between an ignition source and an ignited item is not just a matter of semantics. It is fundamental to fire science. If the purpose of S 1798 is to reduce the flammability of items ignited frequently in household fires, then candles clearly do not belong in the legislation. If the purpose of this legislation is to improve the fire safety of ignition sources, then stoves and ovens, heaters and furnaces, fireplaces and chimneys, cigarettes, and clothes dryers – all of which cause more residential fires than candles -- should be included. Candles constitute but 4 percent of all residential fires. Industry has consistently demonstrated its support for, and compliance with, the ASTM candle standards, and we believe they are playing a significant role in reducing candle-related residential fires. VI Conclusion Through dedication and innovation, our industry has harnessed the candle flame in ways that were unthinkable just a decade ago. Yet these technological feats will be of minimal value unless we can make significant inroads in educating consumers about the need for caution and vigilance when burning candles. As the voice of the U.S. candle industry, the NCA has been steadfast in its commitment to improving candle fire safety, not only through its active participation in the development of voluntary ASTM standards, and compliance with those standards, but in its ongoing consumer education, media outreach and cooperative endeavors. On behalf of the National Candle Association, we appreciate the opportunity to testify today, and respectfully request that references to candles and candle fire-safety standards be removed from S 1798. Thank you.
Mr. Al Klancnik
Mr. Chairman, and honorable members of the committee. My name is Al Klancnik of Serta, Incorporated. I am here today to speak about open-flame resistant mattresses, the complexity of bedroom fire safety, and the science-based testing standard that exists today for mattress regulation. For reference, Serta is the second-largest mattress manufacturer out of 700 with annual sales of $742 million. We are based in Itasca, Illinois, and have 26 plants across the country. Serta is the only national manufacturer that has voluntarily converted to open-flame resistant mattresses. This is more than one year in advance of the upcoming open-flame regulation for mattresses and box springs in California. We have done this because we believe we have a responsibility to offer safer mattresses as soon as possible. Since last October when we began introducing our open-flame resistant products, we have sold approximately two million safer mattresses and box springs to consumers across the country. When you look at statistics published by the U.S. Fire Administration, the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the National Fire Protection Association, you see that there is a real need for safer mattresses. In the United States alone, two people die in bedroom fires every day, a statistic that we can change now by implementing science-based regulations on a federal level. I have dedicated my career to pursuing safety advancements in mattress flammability. I have been involved in the development of cigarette-ignition and fire-resistant mattresses and testing standards for the past 30 years. During that time, I have worked to develop open-flame testing protocols with the CPSC, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, the Sleep Products Safety Council, and the California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation. With the involvement of this country’s preeminent fire-resistance experts, we developed an open-flame testing protocol that accurately replicates the impact of a bedclothes fire on a mattress. The burners for this test were developed by NIST to provide consistent conditions under which these tests are performed and documented. The protocol was ultimately used by California in TB 603. During this process, we found that a 30-minute test with a 200-kilowatt heat threshold had sound scientific data to support that the test was attainable and replicable by manufacturers. More importantly, it will result in products that provide the critical time people need to detect and escape from a bedroom fire. This point is underscored by NIST’s research into human behaviors during bedroom fires. We also explored tests with time intervals up to 60 minutes and with lower heat thresholds, but found no scientific data that demonstrated a longer test duration would result in improved life safety. In fact, the materials we would use to meet a 60-minute test are more than triple the cost of our current safety components. They also make the products extremely uncomfortable. If mattresses are unappealing to consumers and are priced so that they cannot afford them, then the standard is not viable on a mass-market scale. As a result, safer mattresses getting into homes would be delayed and more lives would ultimately be lost. By moving forward, Serta has demonstrated the technology exists to manufacture and market mattresses that can help to save lives today. We have a standard that is acceptable to both industry and government. And at Serta, we have proven that the standard included in California’s TB 603 is viable. But I should point out that safer mattresses are only the first step in addressing the overall issue of bedroom fire safety. NIST, the SPSC and the California Bureau have all recommended that mattresses and bedclothes should be regulated together in order to achieve the greatest safety advancement. Mr. Chairman, we encourage this Committee to allow the CPSC to adopt the final, published standards in California’s TB 603 as a federal mattress open-flame regulation. But in addition, if the intent of this Committee is to save lives, other steps must also be taken. Bedclothes, which have been proven time and again to be the first items to ignite in a bedroom fire, must also be safer. Regulating mattresses without also regulating bedclothes is only achieving half of the safety equation. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I am happy to answer any questions you have.