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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.


All of the information and opinions contained in this blog are made with the information, and the understanding that we have reviewed at the time of publishing.  However, despite our efforts, we do not offer any guarantee of their accuracy, thoroughness of our investigation or validity. The author of this blog is not liable for any inaccuracies or any losses or damages that may result from the use of the information or data contained herein. This blog has not been reviewed or verified for its accuracy by any peer group associates prior to publication.

Michel Comtois

Michel Comtois

Michel Comtois is an accomplished founder and CEO of Micom Laboratories Inc., an ISO/IEC 17025 (2017) A2LA-accredited independent laboratory specializing in product and material testing services. Before establishing Micom Laboratories in 1999, Michel, who also holds a Master’s degree in Physical Chemistry, gained extensive experience over a 14-year tenure managing departments spanning physical chemistry, physics, mechanical and material testing in research and contract laboratories. This exposure granted him a profound understanding of the intricacies of development and material testing processes.

In addition to his practical experience, Michel has played influential roles on various voluntary technical committees. He notably, served as the chairperson for CAN/CGSB 44.227 and the Head of the Canadian Delegation for ISO TC 136. He also contributed to the following technical committees: CAN/CGSB 44.229, CAN/CGSB 44.232, ANSI/BIFMA X5.1, ANSI/BIFMA X5.5, ANSI/BIFMA X5.6, ANSI/BIFMA X 5.9 ANSI/BIFMA X5.11, ISTA Certification Council.

Leveraging his unique expertise, he has led Micom Laboratories to become a renowned name in its niche, now operating out of a 16,000-square-foot test facility in Montreal, Canada, and serving a diverse customer base with an array of material and product testing services. Follow Michel on LinkedIn

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