In 1953, the US Government started to recognize the hazards of flammable clothing with the Flammable Fabrics Act. This law was enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (https://www.ftc.gov/) and focused on the flammability of interior furnishings and apparel. It did not yet address mattress flammability.
But, in 1972 the Consumer Protection Safety Commission was formed and it was granted authority to issue all consumer flammability standards (https://www.cpsc.gov/) Carpets, rugs, children’s sleepwear, mattresses and mattress pads were now subject to flammability standards. The standards are laid-out in this portion of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) found here
With regard to mattress flammability, it seems the main concern was mattress fires being started by smoldering cigarettes. The CPSC standard test for mattress combustion was a cigarette placed on the tested mattress in about six different places. After a specified length of time, the mattress must not have caught fire. This standard held authority until 2007.
In 2007, the chemical industry convinced Congress to have the standard increased to an open flame test. This open-flame standard still holds authority today, except in California which will be addressed in the next paragraph. The open flame standard is a much more stringent test in which mattresses are exposed to an open flame for about a minute and must not catch fire. The new standards can be found here CFR 1633.1.
Since the inception of CFR 1632.1 in1972 (the smoldering cigarette test), most manufacturers have invested in chemical means to make their mattresses less flammable in order to pass the test. With the advent of the more stringent CFR 1633.1 in 2007 (the open flame test), and with large investments previously made by manufacturers in a chemical solution since 1972, it’s safe to say that since 2007 significantly more flame-retardant chemicals have been used on mattresses to ensure they pass the more stringent test.
Flame retardants can be toxic. In the early years of these flammability requirements, some pretty harsh chemicals were used and subsequently banned. Right now, chemical flame retardants in mattresses tend to be related to Chlorine, Bromine or Antimony. There is still some risk associated with these chemicals. Over time the chemicals can separate from the textile and become airborne. The flame retardant particles then settle into the layer of dust on flooring. From there, the chemicals get into our bloodstreams in various ways. All people in the US have some degree of chemical flame retardant present in their bodies. Children have the highest amounts because they are often in closer proximity to dust particles.
The more socially responsible mattress manufacturers have found more natural means by which to pass the flame test such as a layer of wool in the mattress casing (sometimes called a wool-wrap), or wrapping the mattress in a rayon “sock” to which silica has been bonded.
California lowered its flammability standard for mattresses in 2015 with Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117). It essentially rolled-back the 2017 open flame standard to the 1972 smoldering cigarette standard. The standard has been reduced with the idea that mattress manufacturer’s can now find less toxic ways to meet the lower standard. Yet there is no requirement to do so. And considering the investment manufacturing firms have in flame retardant chemical application, they are unlikely to invest in a new technology that will only raise their costs.
Rest assured that all products at ECO Sleep Solutions are free of chemical flame retardants.