California Technical Bulletin 117:

Change the Law that Polluted the World.

Technical Bulletin 117 tag from furniture.Have you ever noticed tags (such as the one in the image to the right) on pillows, couches, chairs, and basically anything containing foam? Those tags and the toxic chemicals in that item were put there by a 1975 furniture flammability standard in California called Technical Bulletin 117. It became the de facto standard for much of our nation’s and even the world’s furniture industry and has been called “the law that polluted the world”.

Take a moment – to look beneath your chair or cushion. Do you see a tag such as the image to the right on your furniture? If it is, the foam inside your chair likely contains toxic flame retardants because of this old law ‘TB117″. In fact, this technical standard has not significantly improved fire safety – smoke detectors and the changes made to cigarettes which cause them to smolder rather than ignite fabric have done that. In fact, it has been shown that once the fabric covering the foam ignites, the flame retardants cause worse fires by smoldering and creating toxic gas. 

The chemical industry fights every effort to strengthen the regulation of flame retardants in furniture. The Chicago Tribune has an entire investigative series exposing industry efforts to sabotage this work. An excerpt from one of their articles:

“Under the current rule, known as Technical Bulletin 117, foam cushioning must withstand a candle-like flame for 12 seconds, a standard that many manufacturers meet by adding flame retardants to products sold across the country. California Governor Jerry Brown called for a sweeping overhaul last year after the chemical industry thwarted multiple attempts by California lawmakers and health advocates to change the rule with legislation.

When lawmakers in recent years considered eliminating the candle test, the chemical industry’s star witness, burn surgeon David Heimbach, testified about babies burned to death in fires started by candles.

But the Tribune series proved that the babies he described didn’t exist.

The newspaper also documented that the group sponsoring Heimbach – the Citizens for Fire Safety Institute – actually was a front group for the largest manufacturers of flame retardants. The industry has since shut down that group. (see the notice on the website here:

Before the proposed rule becomes final, industry officials and other interested parties will have a chance to weigh in and potentially challenge the new tests, making it unlikely that a standard will take effect before fall.” Read more at the Chicago Tribune.

California’s new standards are based on the best science currently available and are being opposed by the same forces that defeated our Alaska flame retardant bills HB 63 and SB 27 in 2012. Do you remember the fraudulent testimony of David Heimbach before our Alaska State Legislature last year? Although the Alaska Senate Passed “Safe Homes, Healthy Families” SB 27, the bill was dead after the false testimony Dr. Heimbach submitted and our effort to begin the process of eliminating toxics from our Alaska homes was defeated, because of the lies perpetrated by the industry.

Implementation of these new California standards will represent a significant step toward our long-range goal of removing toxics from our lives.

Or send your comments to:  B117comments at

Tony Blood, Chief
Bureau of Electronic & Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings & Thermal Insulation, Department of Consumer Affairs
4244 South Market Court, Suite D, Sacramento, CA 95834-1243

Factsheet: Changing TB117 – The Law that Polluted the World

Questions? Contact us any time.