Foam-filled furniture

Product Safety Policy Statement.

The majority of domestic furniture bought and sold in New Zealand is foam-filled. The foams used can catch fire at relatively low temperatures, burn quickly and intensely, and emit suffocating poisonous smoke that can spread fire quickly through a home. While most homes have smoke alarms they aren’t always active. Even if alarms are active, the speed that foam burns and the quantity of suffocating toxic smoke produced can outpace a person’s ability to respond to an alarm.

What is foam-filled furniture?

Flexible polyurethane foam (FPUF) is a common component in a wide range of furniture sold in New Zealand. There are a number of risks associated with FPUF as it increases the combustibility and ignitability of furniture. A number of injuries and fatalities have been connected to the presence of FPUF. The seating element of furniture often contains foams for added comfort.

Other widely used types of foam that fill furniture are made from:

  • Rubber-based biological material such as 100% natural latex derived from the sap of the rubber tree; or
  • Petroleum-based chemicals such as polyurethane and synthetic latex (also known as natural latex) derived through the process to make petroleum from crude oil; or
  • Petroleum-based chemicals combined with biological material such as rubber or soy.

What can you do as a foam-filled furniture supplier?

The Product Safety Policy Statement for foam-filled furniture aims to advise the New Zealand furniture industry of the risks associated with these products in a fire and outlines the government’s expectation that suppliers (importers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers) respond by making sure that the foam-filled furniture products they supply are more fire safe.

Guidance for manufacturers, importers and retailers

This Product Safety Policy Statement provides guidance and establishes a product safety benchmark for the goods that are the subject of the statement. This enables manufacturers and retailers to self-regulate in the foam-filled furniture industry to increase consumer safety.

The guidance sets out:

  • a suggestion for a benchmark fire-resistance rating for foam-filled furniture
  • guidance on how retailers, manufacturers and MBIE can inform consumers on the safety and fire-risks of foam-filled furniture
  • a proposed mechanism for monitoring the impact of this Product Safety Policy Statement on the product safety regulatory regime.

Unsure where to start? Find some more information about sourcing furniture that complies with the requirements here, or read the full Policy Statement.


Published in the 5th August 2019 edition of Talking Shop.


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