The government says it will provide further detail on proposed changes to regulations at a later date
MPs slam ‘inaction’ from BEIS after it publishes proposed response to consultation it held nearly three years ago
The government has been accused of “inaction and obstruction” for failing to adequately address long-held concerns about toxic chemicals in furniture, after it yesterday set out proposed regulatory changes nearly three years after first publicly consulting on the issue.
In autumn 2016 a consultation was held about changes to the UK Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations 1988 which set fire resistance requirements for cover materials and fillings used to make domestic upholstered furniture.
The government said at the time that the Regulations were “out of date, and in some cases represent and unreasonable burden for furniture manufacturers”.
The move had come in response to concerns that potentially toxic chemicals classed as persistent organic pollutants – often used as flame retardants in furniture – are entering people’s homes.
Campaigners and MPs have consistently called for UK flammability standards to be strengthened in line with the rest of the world in order to protect human health.
But despite having received 126 responses to its 2016 consultation, the government only yesterday released its formal response, which includes plans to further review potential changes.
The latest move follows pressure from MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) who released a report on the issue earlier this week slamming the government’s approach to the issue.
Mary Creagh, chair of the EAC, said it was “astonishing” the government had taken three years to respond to the consultation, and warned that the government’s plan to further review its proposals “means yet more delay in reducing the levels of flame retardants in beds, sofas and babies’ mattresses”.
“Our report on toxic chemicals was clear that the government knew there was a problem with flame retardants in furniture as far back as 2010 which is why it held two consultations to change the regulations in 2014 and 2016,” she said. “Our report spelled out BEIS’ inaction and obstruction and today’s announcement of a third consultation in nine years shows a department in paralysis. Consumers will find the government’s failure to act on these products shocking and inexcusable.”
The response published by BEIS yesterday states that the government now plans to review and further consult on its proposals to update regulations, with a view to developing a “new approach to address the different sources and chemical risks posed by fire to upholstered furniture and furnishings”.
Consistent with the approach taken for other consumer products, the regulatory changes will include new fire safety standards which all new furniture placed on the market must meet, it said.
“We will provide further detail on how the proposals relating to scope, traceability, labelling and enforcement, will be implemented when we are in a position to revise the current Regulations,” the response states.