California Governor Jerry Brown has reversed a law that he signed during his first stint as governor in 1975 that required furniture manufacturers to use flame retardants in their products. The goal of the law was to reduce the risk of fire from furniture, but in recent years it has come under criticism as more has become known about the environmental health effects of the chemicals used.
According to KQED.org, the law, known as Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117), required manufacturers to inject their sofas and other pieces of furniture with chemicals that are now thought to cause cancer and reproductive health issues. Even more alarming is the fact that this law was used as a model for similar legislation passed in other states, so its repeal is symbolic as much as it is real.
Somewhat ironically, there is now even evidence that foam treated with flame retardant chemicals can actually increase the combustibility of the furniture piece.
In place of TB 117, a new standard was created that allows manufacturers to test their products using a "smolder test." Instead of using retardant-injected foam for cushioning, they can now use fabrics and linings that are treated with chemicals that do not emit toxic particles.
If you're in the market for new furniture, make sure to look for the "TB 117-2013″ tag. This label indicates that the piece was made after January 2014, and that it adheres to the new standards put in place by the repeal of the old law.