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How Flame Retardants Are Used in Furnishings



New Source of Information on Flame Retardants

New Website addresses misinformation from “Toxic Hot Seats” documentary.


The addition of flame retardants to furnishings products allows them to meet important fire safety standards and requirements. When added to fabrics and fillings (e.g., bed and crib foam mattresses), flame retardants work to help reduce the rate at which they burn if they are exposed to an ignition source, and can prevent a fire from spreading.

Flame retardants interact differently with different materials. As a result, they can affect how a material performs in the production process, as well as whether the final product meets the manufacturer’s overall performance requirements. For this reason, flame retardants are carefully chosen based on the material. Depending on the application, flame retardants are used alone or in combination with other flame retardants that act as synergists to enhance fire retardant properties. Learn more about how flame retardants work.

Upholstered furniture, and curtains and carpeting are among the major categories of furniture and furnishings that require the fire-protective benefits of flame retardants to meet fire safety standards.

Upholstered Furniture

Synthetic materials, including polyurethane or polyester foam, are used in many of today’s modern upholstered sofas and chairs, as well as other types of seating (e.g., theater seats, child car seats). The advantages of using foam include durability and flexibility. Foam can be easily molded and shaped to accommodate a variety of complicated upholstery designs, allowing furniture designers to meet the modern consumer’s style demands. Foam also provides an alternative for those who are allergic to other materials, such as down feathers.

Flame retardants play an essential role in allowing upholstered furniture to meet fire safety standards, including California’s Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117), the state’s flammability regulations for upholstered furniture. The regulation requires upholstered furniture paddings to withstand 12 seconds of an open flame without spreading the flame. Twelve seconds may offer a critical safety net for someone who is trying to escape a fire, particularly those most at risk (i.e., children and the elderly). In research released in May 2011, the National Fire Protection Association found the populations at highest risk for home fire-related deaths were children under the age of five and over the age of 65.

Curtains and Carpets

Replacing wool, cotton and silk, polyester and nylon are present in a wide variety of home furnishings applications, satisfying modern consumers’ demands for style choices that also have practical advantages. The synthetic materials in today’s curtains and carpets make them highly durable, easier to clean, and resistant to moths and mildew, which often damage natural fibers.

However, these materials need to meet flammability standards, and flame retardants are often used to help them meet these requirements. The risk of fire dangers from natural or synthetic materials used for blinds or curtains that catch on fire is increased because they are hung vertically. In the event of a fire, flames can quickly travel up the material and spread. The addition of flame retardants helps reduce these potential fire threats.

The wide variety of applications used in the home furnishings industry requires the use of an equally wide variety of flame retardants. Different classes of flame retardants work to reduce the threat of fire hazards in different ways.Flame retardants are not interchangeable and must be matched to the specific product and its performance specifications. Individual home furnishings products and applications may have specific requirements that can only be met by a select class of flame retardant, or even a specific flame retardant within that class. Learn more how flame retardants work.

As new materials are developed and product designers and engineers expand our choices in furnishings products for homes, offices and public buildings, fire safety will remain a priority. NAFRA members will continue to innovate and develop new and sustainable flame retardant solutions to meet essential fire safety requirements and standards for these products.

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