STURDY Act, SOFFA advance

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Photo: House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.)

Two important bills for the furniture industry gained approval by a U.S. House subcommittee today. The STURDY Act and SOFFA were passed by voice votes in the Consumer Protection & Commerce subcommittee and will move to consideration next week by the Energy & Commerce Committee.

The STURDY Act, introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), stands for Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth. It would direct the Consumer Products Safety Commission, within a year of the bill’s enactment, to issue a mandatory safety standard for clothing storage units. CPSC would have to develop “objective, repeatable and measurable tests that simulate real world use and account for any impact on clothing storage unit stability that may result from placement on carpeted surfaces, drawers with items in them, multiple open drawers or dynamic force.”

The bill instructs CPSC to work with consumer groups, manufacturers and independent child product engineers to examine the effectiveness of current voluntary standards – but its mandate would set much stricter testing requirements than the voluntary guidelines published by ASTM International, which much of the industry follows.

Industry groups, including the Home Furnishings Association, favor mandatory regulations for furniture stability but worry that the STURDY Act’s testing directives are so broad and include so many variables they could create confusion within the industry and among consumers. HFA urges its members to only sell products that meet ASTM guidelines and to educate buyers about the importance of anchoring chests and dressers to fixed surfaces with effective tip restraints.

SOFFA adopts California standard

HFA endorses a second bill approved by the subcommittee today. SOFFA, or Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act, was introduced by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-W.Va.) and would adopt the California regulation for upholstered furniture flammability, restricting the use of potentially harmful flame retardants.

If this bipartisan bill were enacted, it would go far in bringing certainty to an area that currently is being addressed by various states in different ways. Home furnishings products should be engineered in ways that minimize fire dangers without relying on chemical suppressants. The California regulation accomplishes that goal and should be a model for the rest of the country.

“California’s standard can be met without the use of toxic flame-retardant chemicals that endanger not only the families that have these chemicals in their household furniture but also firefighters who are exposed to them when battling fires,” Energy & Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said today

Doug Clark writes HFA’s Policy Matters blog.

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