San Francisco Department of the Environment

Flame Retardant Ordinance Goes into Effect January 1

Beginning in January 1, 2019, all upholstered furniture and certain children’s products sold in San Francisco must be free of flame retardant chemicals. Flame retardant chemicals are found in couches, upholstered chairs, cushions, and pillows. Studies show many of these chemicals are harmful to health and can accumulate over time. These chemicals do little, if anything, to slow or prevent fire.

Breathe Easy - Choose Flame Retardant-Free Furniture

Purchase furniture made without added flame retardant chemicals.

Flame Retardant Chemicals are found in a wide variety of products:

  • Upholstered Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Baby Products
  • Vehicles

In your home, they can emit from upholstered furniture in the form of dust, or they can get on your hands when you use plastic electronic items such as your remote control. Flame retardants chemicals aren’t good for your health, and they haven’t proven to be very effective at preventing fires either. Avoid ingesting flame retardant chemicals with these solutions:

Everyday Actions

  • Dust, vacuum, and mop your home often.
  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating.
  • Don’t eat while using electronics such as a TV remote or computer key board.
  • Cover up holes or reupholster old furniture, pillows or pads if foam cushions are exposed.

Improvements and Replacements

Understand why flame retardant chemicals are used.

By law, flame retardant chemicals have been incorporated into furniture, carpet padding, insulation, electronics and other products dating back to 1975. At that time, in-home smoking was more prevalent, and electronics would often overheat. Flame retardant chemicals are added to products as an outdated method to meet government fire safety rules. 

While these chemicals not only do little, if anything, to slow or prevent fire, studies show they are accumulating in humans and the environment. These chemicals may disrupt brain development and thyroid hormones; affect learning, memory and attention; reduce IQ; reduce sperm quality; disrupt thyroid function; and mimic estrogen.

Recently, fire safety regulations for upholstered home furniture have changed to encourage other manufacturing methods which do not use these chemicals. Because of this change, and in response to consumer health concerns, many manufacturers have promised to stop adding flame retardant chemicals to polyurethane foam used in their products. If you're buying new furniture, make sure to check the attached labels to see if the item contains flame retardant chemicals:
  • TB 117 - Most likely contains flame retardant chemicals 
  • TB 117-2013 - May or may not contain flame retardant chemicals
  • SB 1019 - See which line is marked with an X next to "contain added flame retardant chemicals", or "contain NO added flame retardant chemicals"

Additional Resources

Natural Resources Defense Council's explaining flame retardants
Chicago Tribune's "Playing with Fire" series on how and why flame retardants are used
Green Science Policy Institute's background on flame retardants
Environmental Health Perspectives' summary of widespread exposure to flame retardants


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