SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today the California Assembly handily passed a state-wide ban on the sale of mattresses and upholstered furniture that contain fiberglass and other toxic flame retardant chemicals.
The Environmental Working Group is sponsoring the bill, which would also prohibit upholsterers from using fiberglass and other toxic chemicals to repair or reupholster mattresses and furniture in California.
“With the Assembly’s passage of A.B. 1059, the legislature took an important step in protecting the health of our state’s residents,” said Bill Allayaud, EWG’s vice president of government affairs in California. “We expect the Senate to follow suit and approve this bill to eliminate unnecessary hidden risks to our health.”
California has long been considered a bellwether state, leading the way for the rest of the U.S. in many areas of health and safety. If a manufacturer is required to satisfy California standards, it will likely adhere to the same high standard with products it sends to the rest of the country.
“The mattress industry is innovative – just think of the recent innovation of online mattress shopping. And we expect them to be able to take out nasty chemicals while meeting flammability standards,” said Allayaud.
Purpose of fiberglass in mattresses
For many years, mattresses and upholstered furniture included chemical flame retardants, but they were linked to serious health harms. In 2018, California banned these chemicals in the foam part of mattresses. Other mattress components, such as layers that contain so-called thermal barriers, were exempt.
Acknowledging consumer awareness of the issue, and in light of legislative bans, manufacturers have eliminated most of the toxic chemicals. But to keep meeting flammability standards, they make the other layers of the mattress with flame resistant materials that are thermal barriers, some of which are problematic for human health.
In a 2022 study by California Department of Public Health researchers, “Fiberglass was observed in two of the four [mattress] covers, including potentially inhalable fiberglass fragments that pose a health risk if the covers are opened by consumers.”
If fiberglass does escape containment, the fragments can get everywhere, creating a potential inhalation hazard, damaging the lungs, and irritating the skin and eyes.
Minuscule fiberglass shards can settle on home surfaces and be difficult to remove without professional help, harming people and damaging HVAC systems, furniture, clothing and carpeting.
There are non-toxic replacements for fiberglass and other toxic chemicals, including wool, rayon, and polylactic acid batting. These can be used to meet fire safety standards.
EWG recommends that consumers shopping for a mattress or crib mattress look for one made by a company that’s transparent about what it uses to meet fireproofing requirements and the other materials in their products. It’s best to choose materials like wool and cotton, beware of overstated product claims, and get guidance about healthy mattresses.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org for more information.