By Steve TolokenCrain’s Plastics NewsWASHINGTON-A nine-year campaign by firefighters to reduce fire deaths from upholstered furniture may result in tougher rules on polyurethane foam padding, if industry groups and firefighters reach agreement on a mandatory national standard.Some participants in the talks between industry groups and firefighters suggest that the upholstered furniture proposal could require flame-retardant chemicals for foam.Upholstered furniture fires killed 420 people in 1998, the last year for which figures are available. Deaths have dropped about 70 percent since the early 1980s, but recent data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission in Bethesda, Maryland, suggests the decline may be leveling off.Beyond wanting to reduce fire deaths, those involved in the talks point to several reasons why industry groups now are willing to consider a mandatory national standard to replace a 26-year-old program of voluntary furniture industry self-regulation. They cite increasing threats from liability lawsuits, the desire to preempt a strict new standard that California is considering, and the growth of furniture imports. “
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