Furniture: Fire Prevention

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy written question – answered on 20th May 2019.

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Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the safety of the use of decabromodiphenyl ethane in UK furniture; and what advice, if any, they have received from (1) the European Chemicals Agency, (2) the Health and Safety Executive, and (3) the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment on the risks of using decabromodiphenyl ethane.

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The Government is currently reviewing the operation of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 and is taking account of evidence and advice from external sources such as academic papers as well as the views of experts from across government, including Chief Scientific Advisors.

All furniture must also comply with the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 and be safe before it can be placed on the market.

DecaBDE is a persistent organic pollutant. The UK ceased production of this substance in 1996 and its use has declined sharply since then. Many other countries have also phased out its use. It was banned under the UN Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants in December 2018 and under the European chemical regulation regime, REACH, in March 2019. It will not be present in household soft furnishings and mattresses purchased after this ban comes into effect.

Chemicals, including brominated flame retardants used in UK furniture, are regulated under Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). REACH aims to provide a high level of protection for health and the environment from the use of chemicals including those used in products.

In order to comply with REACH, companies must identify and manage the risks linked to the substances they manufacture and market in the EU. They have to demonstrate how the substances can be safely used, and they must communicate the risk management measures to the users. If the risks cannot be managed, authorities can ban or restrict the use of substances.

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