Home furnishings must be made less toxic: EAC writes to Minister

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has written to the Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business to follow up on recommendations the predecessor Committee made to clean up toxic materials in the household.

The Government has recently undertaken a consultation reviewing regulations on the fire safety of domestic upholstered furniture, which the Committee welcomes.

However, the Government’s proposals do not reflect the Committee’s recommendations from 2019. EAC has therefore asked for responses to the following:

  • How the British Standards Institution will develop safety standards for upholstered furniture, in light of previous EAC concerns that any testing by the Institution could be used by industry to frustrate change and delay reform;
  • In light of concerns about the effectiveness of the UK’s current flammability tests, why the Government seeks to retain the requirement for products to be assessed against this rather than creating a new flammability test learning from best practice from other countries;
  • Why only certain baby and children’s products are removed from scope of the 1988 regulations on Furniture and Fire Safety, which led to products using potentially harmful flame retardant chemicals;
  • What measures the Government is considering to direct consumers to more information on the chemical flame retardants used in their furniture;
  • How the Government’s ‘Flame Retardant Technology Hierarchy’ is likely to be effective in reducing the use of substances of very high concern.

Environmental Audit Committee Chair, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: “In rooms around our homes we all have furniture treated with potentially dangerous flame retardants.

“In 2019, the predecessor Committee raised concern that the relevant regulations had been sitting on the desks of Ministers for reform, but that progress was not forthcoming. It is therefore welcome, four years on from the Committee’s report, that the Government has consulted on its proposals to make our homes less toxic.

“But many of the Government’s proposals stop short of what the Committee had previously recommended. The Government must not waste this opportunity to get regulations in this area right. That is why I have written to the Minister responsible, reiterating the predecessor Committee’s recommendations, and seeking information to understand better the robustness of its proposals.”

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