The furniture industry is no stranger to regulation – we have adapted to comply with hundreds of state and federal regulations. But despite political gridlock at the federal level often slowing down legislative and regulatory efforts, more chemical regulations for furniture manufacturing are on the way. Aggressive regulatory efforts have shifted to states with California leading the way, especially regarding upholstered furniture flammability, formaldehyde emissions, and broader flame retardant chemical bans. Given the size of the California market, some of its regulations can become de facto national standards. These efforts, combined with other state and federal rules, have created significant shifts in furniture manufacturing and, further downstream, furniture retailers.
HFA efforts for chemical regulations
Recently, the HFA has been contacted regarding increasing chemical-related legislation/regulation in New York, Washington, and California. In New York, there is a state legislative effort to ban flame retardant chemicals in upholstered furniture and other products like electronics. Previous legislation like this was one of the main motivations for the HFA and other industry stakeholders to strongly support the passage of the Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act (SOFFA) to create a national upholstered flammability standard based on the existing California Technical Bulletin (TB) 117-2013. The SOFFA language was ultimately included in December 2020 year-end congressional legislation as the COVID-19 Regulatory Relief and Work from Home Safety Act. Importantly, revisions made by California in 2013 allowed for the standard to be met without the use of flame retardant chemicals. As a result, these chemicals were removed from the upholstered furniture supply chain. These proactive measures allow us to avoid the impacts of specific flame retardant bans, like the current NY legislation, while still producing safe furniture in the marketplace.
The efforts in Washington State and California are different as they are related to a class of chemicals called Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These ‘forever’ chemicals have become a target at federal and state levels with pending federal legislation, which could lead to a broader ban. PFAS are used in various products, but Washington and California continue to investigate any connection to the home furnishings industry. Washington is considering a ban on these chemicals, while California is focused on efforts to have manufacturers and retailers disclose if these substances are present. Building on the success of other similar conversations, HFA can proactively engage on these and other state-specific matters to explore the proper balance between consumer safety and the responsibility/burden faced by furniture retailers.
We look forward to working with members located in the states noted above and in states considering similar efforts regarding chemical regulations for furniture to educate policymakers at all levels of the role of retailers and the steps we take as an industry to protect consumers and sell safe products.