California approves measures to regulate flame retardants in four categories of consumer products. The new law will become effective on January 1, 2020.

SAFEGUARDS | Consumer Products NO. 134/18

SafeGuardS playmate

In March 2018, we informed you [1] that California and several states in the US had introduced proposals to regulate flame retardants in a wide variety of consumer products. The scope of products and types of flame retardants in these bills are jurisdiction dependent.

On September 29, 2018, the governor of California signed into law AB 2998 [2] to restrict a broad range of flame retardants in juvenile products, mattresses, upholstered furniture and reupholstered furniture. The new measures create completely new Article 5.5 (commencing with Section 19100) to Chapter 3 of Division 8 of the Business and Professions Code [3].

According to the new law, flame retardants and juvenile products have the following definitions:

  • A flame retardant is a chemical where its functional use is to resist or inhibit the spread of fire or as a synergist to chemicals that resist or inhibit the spread of fire, and meeting one of the following criteria:

    • The flame retardant is a halogenated, organophosphorus, organonitrogen, or nanoscale chemical

    • The flame retardant is a ‘designated chemical’ under Section 105440 of the Health and Safety Code [4]

    • The flame retardant is a chemical under Washington State Department of Ecology’s (DOE) list of Chemicals of High Concern to Children (CHCCs) as of January 1, 2019, and identified as a flame retardant or as a synergist to flame retardants (WAC Title 173 Section 173-334-130 [5])

  • A juvenile product means a product subject to this Chapter and designed for residential use by children under 12 years of age, including but not limited to, bassinets, booster seats, changing pads, floor playmats, highchairs, highchair pads, infant bouncers, infant carriers, infant seats, infant swings, infant walkers, nursing pads, nursing pillows, playpen side pads, playards, portable hook-on chairs, strollers and children’s nap mats.

The new law exempts, among other things, the following materials or components:

  • Electronic components of juvenile products, mattresses, reupholstered furniture, upholstered furniture, or associated casing for those electronic components

  • Threads or fibers for stitching mattress components together 

  • Components of adult mattresses other than foam

Highlights of the new law are summarized in Table 1

Chapter 924, Statutes of 2018 (AB 2998)

An act to add article 5.5 to Chapter 3 of Division 8 of the Business and Professions Code, relating to business
Effective Date
Flame Retardants
  • Juvenile Products
  • Mattresses*
  • Reupholstered Furniture
  • Upholstered Furniture
≤ 1000ppm
January 1, 2020
*Components of adult mattresses other than foam are exempt

Table 1.

California has placed a blanket ban [6] on pentabrominated diphenyl ether (penta-BDE) and octabrominated diphenyl ether (Octa-BDE) technical mixtures since 2008. It has also restricted polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) under its’ Lighting Efficiency and Toxics Reduction Act’ since 2010 (Safeguard 52/10 [7]). By bringing the latest restrictions on flame retardants to juvenile products, mattresses, upholstered furniture and reupholstered furniture, California is strengthening its regulatory action on the use of flame retardant chemicals. Other US jurisdictions regulating the use of (certain) flame retardants include the federal government, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, San Francisco, Vermont, Washington and Washington DC. Additionally, the states of Maine, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington require disclosure information on some flame retardants in certain children’s products  

It is interesting to note that San Francisco’s Ordinance 211-17 on ‘Flame Retardant Chemicals in Upholstered Furniture and Juvenile Products’ also restricts flame retardants but in juvenile products, upholstered furniture and reupholstered furniture. These restrictions also include electronic components in the aforementioned products (Safeguard 168/17 and references therein [8]). The city also published Regulations SFE-18-01-FR [9] to assist the industry to comply with its flame retardant requirements and petition processes (Safeguard 130/18 [10]). According to Regulations SFE-18-01-FR, these must be read together with the Ordinance.

Next step:

Stakeholders are advised to comply with the latest requirements for flame retardants for the Californian market.

SGS is committed to providing information about development in regulations for consumer products as complimentary services. Through a global network of laboratories, SGS provides a wide range of services including physical/mechanical testing, analytical testing and consultancy work for technical and non-technical parameters applicable to a comprehensive range of consumer products. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

For enquiries, please contact:

Hingwo Tsang
Global Information and Innovation Manager
t: +852 2774 7420

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