New US Mattress Regulation 16 CFR 1633 Taking Fire Out of Bedroom

The first new federal flammability regulation for mattresses in more than 30 years took effect on July 1st , 2007, when all mattresses manufactured and sold in the United States had to be resistant to open flame sources, such as candles, matches and cigarette lighters.

U.S. mattress producers shipped nearly 24 million new mattresses, according to the International Sleep Products Association, while federal statistics show another 4 million mattress sets were imported. The industry estimates more than 1 000 mattress manufacturers operate in the United States, with possibly an equal number of foreign companies exporting or planning to export.

Under the new government regulation 16 CFR Part 1633, mattresses need to withstand exposure to open flame sources for at least 30 minutes. This time span could be instrumental in saving lives, as fire caused by mattresses and bedding is a leading cause of injury and death in the home. "If we're going to make a serious impact on the number of fire-related injuries and fatalities in this country, we have to deal with the flammability of home furnishings," said Jim Milke, a professor in the fire protection engineering department at the University of Maryland. "The mattress is the largest fuel source in your home. By making it more flame-resistant, your odds of surviving a fire increase."

On average, 380 people die and 1 580 are injured every year from 12 200 home fires started by bedding and mattresses, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The only fuel source involved in more U.S. fire fatalities is upholstered furniture.

Candle fires increasing

Mattress fires were last addressed in 1973, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) adopted the current 16 CFR 1632 federal flammability regulation for mattresses that requires resistance to lit cigarettes. Fire researchers credit that regulation with helping reduce bedroom fire fatalities by two-thirds between 1980 and 1999.

But while smoking materials continue to be the leading source of deadly home fires, incidents involving candles have steadily increased. Candle fires have quadrupled to 16 400 a year over the last decade, with more than 38 % of candle fires occurring in the bedroom, NFPA reports. Another 8 200 fires are started by children playing with candles, matches and cigarette lighters. In fact, CPSC found that more than three-quarters of mattress fire fatalities involved children under age 15.

The fire safety community refers to lighters, matches and candles as "small open-flame sources," a classification that is different from smouldering cigarettes and one that was unregulated by prior mattress flammability requirements. Ongoing research by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and steadily increasing statistical data regarding residential fires prompted the mattress industry to discuss new requirements in flammability regulations with the CPSC, which eventually led to the new 16 CFR 1633 federal flammability regulation for mattresses.

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