Boston City Fire Code to Remove Requirement to Use CAL 133

We received a communication by e-mail from BIFMA reporting that the Boston City Fire Code will be imminently amended to withdraw the compliance requirement for seating products to comply to California Technical Bulletin 133.  The city fire code will now require compliance to Cal 117 which is an easier test to meet since it is not an open-flame test like CAL 133.   This standard that pertains to fire safety is often required with other chair performance standard such as BIFMA X5.1 (office chairs) and BIFMA X5.4 (lounge seating).  The push to quit using CAL 133 is to get rid of fire retardant chemicals (FR) that are recognized as representing a significant health hazard to the end user.  Furthermore, seating products upholstered with FR treated fabrics very often end up generating more smoke and a more “toxic” smoke than an untreated fabric.  Therefore, when a seating product is involved in a fire, the chair might in the end represent a higher risk to the end users and the firefighters.

Modern office buildings are all sprinklered.  The CAL 133 standard was developed mainly for non sprinklered buildings and higher risk occupancies such as psychiatric hospitals and Jails.  Obviously todays buildings are all equipped with sprinklers so the need for the additional level of fire resistance that provides compliance to CAL 133 is slowly vanishing.

Per the communique, Boston was allegedly the largest market requiring Cal 133 compliance.  However, there are many other jurisdictions requiring Cal 133 such as the NJ port Authority, NY port Authority, City of Chicago, Minneapolis…  All this to say there are still driving forces in the US mandating CAL 133 compliance and it will still be there for some time.

In 2007 the Consumer Protection Safety Commission made mandatory throughout the United States compliance to 16 CFR Part 1633 – Standard for The Flammability (Open Flame) of Mattress Sets. This standard is based on Cal 129 which was based on CAL 133. It however uses a different burner shape to account for the differences in shape between a seating products and mattresses. This new regulation forced the mattress industry to start using the same technologies as the Seating Industry; fire membranes, FR treated foam and upholstery.

All this leaves me wondering; on one hand CAL 133 is being obliterated so that the seating industry can start removing FR chemicals from their products because they are deemed “dangerous”.  That I understand.  On the other hand; if it is dangerous to sit on FR treated products; is it safer to sleep on them with our face only closer to the FR source and a larger part of our body exposed?  Isn’t there “somewhat” of a contradiction or is it only me?

If California end up withdrawing CAL 133; will they also withdraw CAL 129? If they withdraw CAL 129; what will CPSC do with 16 CFR Part 1633?  Just asking…

Micom is a third party material testing laboratory accredited by the Standards Council of Canada, CGSB and ISTA.


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