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HFA opposes a new flame-retardant bill in Rhode Island

The Home Furnishings Association asked a key legislator in Rhode Island to stop an unnecessary and counterproductive flame-retardant bill from advancing in the state’s General Assembly. 

“With the enactment of H 5082 in 2017, Rhode Island moved to effectively ban the use of organohalogen flame retardant chemicals in any residential upholstered bedding or furniture,” HFA CEO Sharron Bradley wrote to state Rep. Joseph M. McNamara March 14. “Our members, who are furniture retailers, are prepared to comply with this law. 

“We are concerned now, however, that proposed new legislation would take a further, unnecessary and counterproductive step. H 5424 includes in its definition of ‘flame retardants’ a process chemical called antimony, which is found in polyester-based barrier materials used to comply with federal flammability law. If H 5424 is enacted as currently written, it may become impossible for our members to sell mattress sets that meet the federal regulation.” 

McNamara chairs the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, which conducted a hearing on the bill March 13. The committee recommended holding the bill for further study.  

In her letter, Bradley noted that a similar bill in Massachusetts was stopped in January when Gov. Charlie Baker issued a pocket veto. Baker observed that the bill, if enacted, would impact products “already subject to federal flammability requirements.” 

Bradley also noted that scientific reviews by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission have found that antimony trioxide used in mattresses for fire-safety reasons is safe for consumers, manufacturing workers and the environment when the mattress is discarded. 

“Finally,” Bradley added, “much to the distress of many of our Rhode Island members, who operate brick-and-mortar stores in your communities, consumers often order sleep products and other home furnishings online from out-of-state suppliers. We question whether these suppliers would comply with Rhode Island law, creating a competitive disadvantage for our members, who pay taxes, employ people and contribute to community causes in Rhode Island. 

“For these reasons, we believe that H 5424 is both unnecessary and detrimental to retail businesses that sell home furnishings and care deeply about the health and well-being of their customers. We hope that this bill will not advance in the Rhode Island General Assembly.” 

Flame-retardant bills have been introduced in more than 20 other state legislatures, most with differing requirements. HFA supports congressional action to set a single national standard that takes a balanced and reasonable approach to fire safety and potential exposure to toxic chemicals.