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Domestic furniture fires kill 1,500 people a year in Europe and seriously injure 15,000. This is a major hazard to consumers that has remained overlooked for more than 20 years. It is difficult to think of any other EU consumer safety issue with more potential benefits that has been neglected for so long by most regulators at EU as well as national level.

Complete exposure tot he dangers

Only the UK and Ireland have introduced stringent fire safety standards for upholstered furniture. Adopted in 1988, the UK furniture and furnishings fire safety regulation has been a major factor in the reduction of domestic fire deaths and injuries over the last twenty years.

Similar high standards of fire safety do not exist in any other Member State where consumers are therefore completely exposed to the dangers of upholstered furniture fires – especially foam-filled furniture. Indeed, once involved, foam-filled furniture creates a major increase in the fire hazard of any kind of domestic fire.

Action at EU level

Burn tests performed in 2010 on 27 typical household sofas, one bought in each EU member state, demonstrated that the existing difference in fire safety standards is literally a difference between life and death.

All the sofas, except the ones bought in Ireland and the UK, produced life-threatening conditions in less than seven minutes after ignition – some in as little as two minutes. In contrast the UK-bought sofa did not turn into a life-threatening blaze until more than 21 minutes had elapsed.

Action at EU level is required to guarantee adequate protection for all EU consumers alike.

  • The European Fire Safety Alliance calls for the introduction of harmonised fire safety for all upholstered furniture sold in Europe, guaranteeing the same level of protection already existing in the UK and Ireland.
  • Pending the introduction of such harmonised requirements, urgent precautionary measures such as the labelling of flammable upholstered furniture, should be considered.