Industry guide to futon flammability requirements in Canada

Table of contents

Introduction

This document provides information about the flammability requirements that apply under the Mattresses Regulations to futon mattresses ("futons") manufactured, imported, advertised or sold in Canada.

The intent of this document is to:

  • provide information about the legislation in Canada that applies to futons;
  • describe the flammability requirements and test method for futons;
  • discuss the influence of chemical flame retardants, materials and construction on the flammability characteristics of futons; and
  • discuss the importance of consumer education on fire safety.

This document is an unofficial summary of the requirements for futons under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act and its Mattresses Regulations. It is not intended to substitute for, supersede or limit the requirements under the applicable legislation. In case of any discrepancy between this summary and the legislation, the legislation will prevail. For further information, contact your Regional Health Canada Consumer Product Safety Office via email (hc.ccpsa-lcspc.sc@canada.ca) or telephone at 1-866-662-0666 (toll-free within Canada and the United States).

To obtain information on the legislative requirements for futons not covered in this document, refer to the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA) and its Regulations listed under Appendix A.

Legislation

The Consumer Product Safety Program administers and enforces the CCPSA and its regulations. The Program operates as a post-market regulatory regime, meaning that there is no pre-market review or approval of consumer products by Health Canada. It is the responsibility of industry to ensure that the products they supply to the Canadian market comply with the CCPSA and its regulations.

In addition to the product-specific requirements noted in this document, it is prohibited to manufacture, import, advertise or sell any consumer product that is a "danger to human health or safety" as defined in the CCPSA (see paragraphs 7(a) and 8(a)).

Enforcement actions taken by Product Safety Officers on non-compliant products depend on factors such as the degree of risk associated with a non-compliant product, the willingness of the responsible person to voluntarily comply and the compliance history. Enforcement actions may include commitment to product correction by industry, negotiation with industry for the voluntary removal of non-compliant products from the market, mandatory recall, seizure and/or prosecution under the CCPSA. Any person that manufactures, imports, advertises, or sells non-compliant products that result in property damage, injury or death may also be subject to legal liability.

Mattresses are defined in section 1 of the Mattresses Regulations as items intended, promoted or normally used for the purpose of being slept on that contain resilient material enclosed within a ticking, but not including:

  1. mattress pads;
  2. infant multi-use pads;
  3. parts of upholstered furniture that may be used for the purpose of being slept on that are not separate mattresses;
  4. crib, cradle or bassinet mattresses; and
  5. one-of-a-kind prescription mattresses.

Futons are Japanese-style mattresses that can be rolled up or folded. Futons manufactured, imported, advertised or sold in Canada are subject to the CCPSA and the Mattresses Regulations.

Under section 2 of the Mattresses Regulations, when a mattress is tested in accordance with the Canadian General Standards Board standard CAN/CGSB-4.2 No. 27.7-2013, entitled Textile test methods — Combustion resistance of mattresses — Cigarette test, published in April 2013, the following must not be exhibited in more than one test specimen:

  • melting or charring of the surface that extends more than 50 mm in any horizontal direction from the nearest point of the original location of the test cigarette, or
  • continuing combustion in the mattress assembly 10 minutes after the cigarette has extinguished.

Test method

The following is a summary of the required procedure for assessing the flammability of a futon. For detailed information, refer to CAN/CGSB-4.2 No. 27.7-2013, entitled Textile test methods — Combustion resistance of mattresses — Cigarette test, listed in Appendix A.

In accordance with the standard, 10 specimens – each measuring 300 mm x 300 mm and with a thickness of 50 mm – are cut from the surface of the futon. Five specimens are cut from each side of the futon or, if the futon is designed to be slept on one side only, all 10 specimens are cut from that side. Each specimen is mounted in an uncovered flame-resistant box measuring approximately 300 mm x 300 mm x 300 mm. The firmness of the specimens should be approximately the same as the firmness of the futon at the point of sale.

A lit cigarette is placed in a central position on the specimen, along the length of a crevice, tufting indentation or seam where possible. The test ends when charring or melting of the surface exceeds a distance of 50 mm in any horizontal direction from the cigarette, or 10 minutes after the cigarette has extinguished. The specimen fails if charring or melting of the surface extends beyond 50 mm in any horizontal direction from the cigarette, or if there is any continuing combustion anywhere in the specimen 10 minutes after the cigarette has extinguished.

A futon complies with the flammability requirements if 0-1 specimens fail the test.

A futon does not comply with the flammability requirements if 2-10 specimens fail the test.

Futon flammability: The impact of chemical flame retardants, materials and construction methods

The first futons to emerge in the Canadian market in the late 1960s and early 1970s were the traditional simple Japanese mattresses consisting of untreated 100% cotton batting enclosed by an untreated 100% cotton ticking, valued for their simplicity and hypoallergenic properties.

Traditional untreated 100% cotton futons do not meet the flammability requirements of the Mattresses Regulations.

No futon is fireproof, but there are ways to make it resistant to ignition by a smouldering cigarette:

1) Treatment with chemical flame retardants

Flame retardants are chemicals that are applied to various materials to slow ignition and the spread of fire. Fabrics can be made more smoulder-resistant by adding a chemical flame retardant to the resin back coating applied to the finished fabric, or other topical means. Cotton battings, the traditional filling of choice in futons, can be smoulder-resistant and flame-resistant if an adequate level of boric acid (minimum 10-12% by weight) is distributed evenly throughout the batting.

Some chemical flame retardants are harmful to human health or the environment. If your futon contains a chemical flame retardant, or you are considering using one, be advised that the Government of Canada has taken actions on several chemical flame retardants, including tris (2,3 dibromopropyl) phosphate (TRIS), tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). More recently, actions have been proposed for a number of other chemical flame retardants under the Chemicals Management Plan, including tris (1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate (TCPP), decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE) and dechlorane plus (DP). Boric acid is currently being assessed, and additional chemical flame retardants will be assessed under the third phase of the Chemicals Management Plan. For more information, refer to the Chemicals Management Plan listed in Appendix A.

The flammability requirements of the Mattresses Regulations can be met without the use of chemical flame retardants.

2) Use of smoulder-resistant fabrics and filling materials

Fabrics, battings and threads made of synthetic fibres, as well as polyurethane foams, are generally smoulder-resistant. A variety of flame-resistant filling materials are also available, such as cellular foams (e.g., melamine-loaded polyurethane and combustion modified high resiliency neoprene) and fibre battings specifically formulated to resist flaming and melting.

3) Use of barrier materials

A variety of barrier materials used below the ticking offer varying levels of protection from a smouldering cigarette without sacrificing aesthetic and physical qualities, such as the following:

  • fabrics with specific flame-resistant properties built into the fibre or with inherently flame-resistant fibres (e.g., fibreglass, neoprene, vinyl or other proprietary flame-resistant additives);
  • fabrics with a flame-retardant treated back coating; and
  • cushioning materials available in thin configurations, such as boric-acid treated cotton pads.

The choice and thickness of a barrier material should take into consideration factors such as the size and design of the futon (innerspring [Image 1], foam core [Image 2], cotton batting core [Image 3], pillow-top, etc.), the type and level of flame resistance of the ticking and the amount and order of layering of the filling materials.

Figure 1. Examples of futon designs

Figure 1. Examples of futon designs. Text description follows.
Figure 1: Examples of futon designs - Text Description

There are three images in this figure. The first illustration (Image 1) is a cross-section of a futon with a tufted outer cover, an underlying layer of fire-barrier material and a core of two foam layers and inner springs.

The second illustration (Image 2) is a cross-section of a futon with a tufted outer cover, an underlying layer of wool and a core of three foam layers.

The third illustration (Image 3) is a cross-section of a futon with a tufted outer cover, an underlying layer of polyester fill and a core of cotton batting.

Notes on structural integrity

Even if the best flame-resistant barrier material is used, fire can penetrate the barrier at seams made with non-flame resistant threads or fasteners. Use of flame-resistant tufting threads is also important in preventing flame penetration.

Thicker and heavier futons often have more stitching and tufting to maintain their shape and appearance. Stitching and tufting can dislocate or disturb the underlying material, and can push deeper layers closer to the surface. If these deeper layers are not smoulder-resistant, they will likely contribute to the futon failing to meet the flammability requirements.

Consideration should also be given to the integrity of the crevice of a futon formed when it is placed in the seat/back configuration. Research has shown that crevice areas of furniture are one of the most probable areas where a sustained fire may occur, especially a smouldering fire caused by a lit cigarette, which may easily roll into a crevice and go unnoticed.

The above approaches, alone or in combination, will increase the smoulder-resistance of a futon, but they are not a guarantee of compliance with the flammability requirements of the Mattresses Regulations.

Compliance should always be confirmed by testing.

Educating consumers on fire safety

Industry is responsible for taking proactive measures to help ensure the safety of consumer products they manufacture, import, advertise or sell in Canada. Making sure futons meet the flammability requirements under the Mattresses Regulations reduces the risk of futons catching fire, but it does not make futons fireproof. Consider, at a minimum, attaching bilingual (English and French) labels to futons that inform consumers on how to use futons safely and reduce the risk of fire. If labels are used, they should not make reference to Health Canada or the Mattresses Regulations, nor should they indicate compliance to the Mattresses Regulations; doing so could be a contravention of section 9 of the CCPSA.

For additional guidance on how to help protect the health and safety of Canadians, refer to the document entitled Industry Guidance – "Danger to Human Health or Safety" Posed by Consumer Products listed in Appendix A.

Appendix A - Information resources

For further information, visit the resources below or contact a Health Canada Consumer Product Safety Office via email  (hc.ccpsa-lcspc.sc@canada.ca) or telephone at 1-866-662-0666 (toll-free within Canada and the United States).

To obtain a copy of Health Canada's test method for the flammability of mattresses (Method F06: Test Method for Evaluating Mattresses for Combustion Resistance by the Cigarette Smouldering Test), email Health Canada at hc.ccpsa-lcspc.sc@canada.ca.

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