The Furniture Industry Research Association has produced a report into the impact of flame retardants as greater numbers of chemicals used in the upholstery sector fall under the remit of the EU Reach regulations.

The research project—FR chemicals and their impact on upholstery at end-of-life—is being led by Sherree Felice, furniture technologist at FIRA International.

“Flame retardants continue to be important to the UK furniture and furnishings industry as they ensure that current high levels of fire resistance performance are maintained,” she said.

“The chemical nature of flame retardants has led to many of them being assessed for their potentially hazardous environmental impact. The industry is now facing challenges as a number of flame retardant chemicals being placed on Reach candidate lists.”

She said that in addition, some are also being considered for designation as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment.

“These factors would have a significant impact on the use of, and responsibilities for, such chemicals and on how to deal with product containing them at the end of its life,” she said.

Reach is a European Union regulation—and acronym—concerning the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals.

Ms Felice said: “If an FR chemical is placed on the POPs list, it could be determined as hazardous waste in finished products if the concentration exceeds the acceptable limits, and also how waste is categorised by the waste authority.

“If classed as hazardous, this has a number of implications such as export of waste to overseas and the import of flame retardant chemicals into the UK. This report ascertains how much the furniture industry will be impacted by projected changes to flame retardants currently used on upholstered goods and if there are changes to the way we dispose of these articles as a result.”

A summary of the findings from the project is available to download from www.fira.co.uk/publications/research. The document can be accessed free of charge by members of the Furniture Industry Research Association.