By Liz White, UT staffKnoxville, Tennessee-The US Polyurethane Foam Association (PFA) says its members have almost totally phased out of the use of the flame retardant pentabrominated diphenylether-based (pentaBDE) in flexible foams. After two years of conversion work, new additives have replaced PentaBDE as combustion modifiers for furniture foams, the PFA said. PentaBDE additives were the main fire retardant used to help US foam makers meet the requirements of the California’s TB117 upholstered furniture flammability standard. But California will ban pentaBDE from the beginning of 2008, which is why foamers have sought alternatives. For mattress products, fire-retardant additives are not necessarily required, according to the PFA press statement. A new mattress flammability standard (Calif. TB603), which went into effect in California 1 Jan 2005, only requires that finished mattresses be ignition and combustion resistant, the PFA said. It does not require that mattress components, including foam, perform in a specific manner. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission recently announced that it intends to make a similar mattress flammability standard mandatory across the nation. Eliminating pentaBDE was one of the most complicated issues ever presented to the flexible polyurethane foam (FPF) industry, according to Bob Luedeka, PFA executive director. As well as being effective fire retardants, Penta-based materials “contributed other benefits during the foam manufacturing process,” without affecting “comfort, support and durability of the final cushioning products. ” Luedeka explained. An additional complication is that “FPF manufacturing is not a standardised process,” Luedeka added, “so each manufacturer had to develop a unique conversion strategy.”Suppliers of flame retardants have responded well to the need for pentaBDE replacement technologies,” according to Vincent Bonaddio, Foamex International senior vice-president and president of the PFA, in the PFA statement. Working with flexible foam producers, the suppliers commercialised a handful of substitutes for evaluation, Bonaddio said. “
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