Controversial fire retardant rules may soon change in Calif.

April 9, 2012 7:02:13 PM PDT
California's Department of Consumer Affairs says it's looking at changing controversial fire retardant rules. State Sen. Mark Leno has been trying for years to undo the regulation.

Last year, when a UC Berkeley study found fire retardant chemicals were showing up in California children, there was a push to change the rules. Leno has been leading the fight, and up until now he's been losing.

Leno says he's tried for years to change the rules regarding chemical fire retardants in furniture foam. "The first year we tried to ban these brominated and chlorinated fire retardants altogether," he said.

Then he tried to give consumers a choice by making the rules more like those governing the manufacturing of mattresses where layers of flame retardant fabric can be used in place of chemically treated foam. And finally, last year he tried to change the 1975 regulations around the same time that a UC Berkeley study came out showing that the fire retardant chemicals were showing up in California's children.

"Each of these times, no matter which approach we took, we were defeated by the chemical industry," Leno said.

The companies that make the chemicals have contributed $25,000 to the Senate committee members that voted last year to kill Leno's bill. Leno says the same companies are behind the public relations campaign to influence voters.

But Monday, the Department of Consumer Affairs says a new department head is taking over the Home Furnishings Bureau, and the department is looking into making the furniture requirements more like the regulations governing mattresses.

Thanks to the folks at for tracking down the chemical company contributions, the Department of Consumer Affairs now says they're looking at changing the furniture regulations to make them more like the mattress regulations so that those chemicals would not be required, and that there would be other solutions.

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