Safety officials propose new burn standard for mattresses

Wednesday, December 22nd 2004, 10:56 am

By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Government regulators sought Wednesday to cut significantly the number of people who die in bed fires each year by approving proposed rules for a new safety standard for mattresses.

The proposal by the Consumer Product Safety Commission calls for manufacturers to make sure mattresses aren't quickly engulfed by fire when exposed to small, open flames such as matches, lighters and candles. The agency says a slower burn will give people a better chance to escape and firefighters more time to arrive.

The CPSC will open the rule to public comment and hold a hearing with industry and fire safety officials. No timetable was given on when the hearing would be held.

``This is a significant step toward reducing deaths and injuries from mattress fires,'' CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton said. ``Voting for this proposed mattress standard means we are pretty far down the road toward a final standard.''

According to the agency, mattress and bedding fires account for about 440 deaths and 2,230 injuries annually. The rule could prevent up to 330 deaths and 1,780 injuries each year, the commission said.

The agency said the new standard could cost manufacturers up to $1.5 billion.

The commission also voted to begin considering a rule setting flammability standards for bedding _ blankets, pillows and comforters.

Federal standards require that mattresses not catch fire from a cigarette, a rule put in place in 1973 because so many fires started when people fell asleep while smoking. The commission has been trying to create a new mattress standard since the late 1990s.

The proposal would require manufacturers to conduct 30-minute performance tests on their mattresses. The product could not release more than 200 kilowatts of heat during that time. ``Flashover,'' a term for when the entire contents of a room ignite, occurs at 1000 kilowatts.

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