In 2018, we produced a Q&A looking at compliance with California Proposition 65, otherwise known as Prop 65, or, the "Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986".


In this follow-up article we look at questions specifically related to the furniture industry.

Furniture is often made from a wide variety of components and materials: legs may be metal, frames may be composite wood, and coverings may be woolen. Each part may also have different coatings, stains, sealants or lacquers. Each of these must comply with the requirements of Prop 65.

It’s time to review some of the commonly asked questions relating to furniture and compliance with Prop 65.

Furniture is made from multiple different materials. What chemical testing should be done to comply with Prop 65?

There are two approaches to assessing a product’s compliance with Prop 65:

  1. Risk-based assessment
  2. Product-based assessment

Risk-based assessment involves testing only for high-risk chemicals as demonstrated in settlements related to the product. A survey of historic settlements shows that high-risk chemicals are:

  • Lead – most materials, soft and hard components, and coatings
  • Phthalates – all plastic components and coatings
  • Formaldehyde – fabric components
  • Flame retardants – PU foam and fabrics

Stakeholders should also be aware that bisphenol A (BPA) and hexavalent chromium VI are also now regularly targeted. While there have been no related settlements to this point, we would recommend manufacturers test for these substances.

Product-based assessment considers all Prop 65 listed chemicals. Unique to SGS, this service lets manufacturers know if there are any Prop 65 chemicals in their product.

If furniture foam is completely covered, is a Prop 65 warning necessary?

Chemical exposure is not restricted to direct skin contact; inhalation and ingestion can also negatively impact consumers. For example, chlorinated tris (TDCPP) will gradually be released from treated products into indoor environments. Once it is released, it will be present on surfaces, in the air, and on dust, which can cause inhalation exposure. Exposure to TDCPP is therefore possible even if the product is fully covered in fabric or leather, therefore the Prop 65 warning is required.

As flame retardants are used in PU foams to meet EU/UK fire safety regulations for furniture, is it possible to just label the same products with the California warning labels?

Prop 65 makes businesses responsible for providing clear and reasonable warnings on products containing listed chemicals that may cause cancer or reproductive harm. It does not ban any chemical, so products containing such chemicals, such as flame retardants, can still be sold in California so long as a Prop 65 warning is used.

Are EU REACH test methods acceptable for Prop 65?

Prop 65 provides a safe harbor level to guide businesses in determining whether a warning is necessary. Safe harbor levels reference a daily exposure limit (µg/day), which is completely different to the chemical total content of a product (mg/Kg) as used in REACH. There is no way to directly convert one figure into the other.

REACH test methods will give results that can be used for comparison with reformulation limits made in settlement agreements. It must be remembered however that settlements only legally bind those operators named in the agreement. Compliance with the terms of an existing settlement is voluntary and may or may not afford some protection against Prop 65 litigation.

Does a furniture product compliant with CARB Phase 2 or TSCA Title VI need to be labeled for formaldehyde emissions?

Prop 65 is independent of federal chemical use or composition standards. Its warning requirements are based on exposure levels rather than the amount of an individual chemical in the product.

That being said, it was noticeable that after CARB and TSCA became effective we did not see any formaldehyde settlements or 60-day notices relating to composite wood furniture. We can therefore say, CARB Phase 2 or TSCA Title VI compliant composite wood furniture would be low risk for formaldehyde.

Is there a way to definitively determine, in the field, if a product exceeds the no significant risk level (NSRL) for formaldehyde?

The only way to check if a product contains a listed chemical exceeding the NSRL is through safe harbor assessment. This is because a safe harbor level is a daily exposure limit (µg/day), which is completely different to the product’s chemical total content (mg/Kg). There is no way to directly convert one figure into the other.

Where can we access the list of the settlements?

All settlements and 60-day notices can be found at the California Attorney General’s website.

To learn more about Prop 65, read our 2018 Q&A “Understanding California Proposition 65: Commonly Asked Questions”.

SGS has been helping businesses understand and comply with Proposition 65 since its enforcement. We offer comprehensive testing, product assessment and consultancy services relating to California Proposition 65; supporting your risk management strategy in relation to a wide variety of consumer products.

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For more information, please contact:

Hsin Chen
Technical Manager - Restricted Substances
SGS - North America, Inc.
t: +1 (973) 461 7950