Amended in Assembly April 1, 2013

Amended in Assembly March 21, 2013

California Legislature—2013–14 Regular Session

Assembly BillNo. 127


Introduced by Assembly Member Skinner

(Coauthors: Assembly Members Ammiano, Rendon, Stone, and Williams)

January 14, 2013


An act to add Section 18934.6 to the Health and Safety Code, relating to fire safety.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 127, as amended, Skinner. Fire safety: fire retardants: building insulation.

Existing law authorizes the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission to adopt regulations pertaining to urea formaldehyde foam insulation materials that are reasonably necessary to protect the public health and safety. Existing law provides that these regulations may include prohibition of the manufacture, sale, or installation of this insulation. Existing law also authorizes the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings, and Thermal Insulation to establish by regulation insulation material standards governing the quality of all insulation material sold or installed in the state.

The California Building Standards Law requires all state agencies that adopt or propose adoption of any building standard to submit the building standard to the California Building Standards Commission for approval or adoption. Existing law requires the commission to receive proposed building standards from state agencies for consideration in an 18-month code adoption cycle. Existing law requires the commission to adopt, approve, codify, update, and publish green building standards applicable to a particular occupancy, if no state agency has the authority or expertise to propose green building standards for those occupancies.

This bill would state that the Legislature finds and declares that it is in the best interest of the state tobegin delete eliminateend deletebegin insert reduce the use of flame retardantend insert chemicals from building insulation, while preserving building fire safety and encouraging healthy building practices. The bill would require the commission to adopt, approve, codify, and publish, during its next code adoption cycle,begin insert updated flammabilityend insert standards that accomplish certain things, including maintaining overall building fire safety while giving full consideration to the long-term human and ecological health impacts associated with chemical flame retardants.

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: no.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

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SECTION 1.  

The Legislature finds and declares all of the
2following:

3(a) To improve energy efficiency and to reduce global climate
4change, the use of plastic insulation materials, such as polystyrene,
5polyisocyanurate, and polyurethane, is increasing in buildings and
6especially in green buildings.

7(b) In the United States, flammability requirements for plastic
8foam insulations and other building materials are incorporated into
9building codes and fire regulations for building materials. To meet
10these requirements, plastic insulation materials have
11flame-retardant chemicals added to them, usually as halogenated
12organic compounds with chlorine or bromine bonded to carbon.

13(c) Studies have shown that these halogenated organic
14compoundsbegin delete areend deletebegin insert may beend insert associated with neurological and
15developmental toxicity and endocrine disruption, and are possible
16carcinogens.

17(d) Flame retardants, whose primary use is in building insulation,
18are found at increasing levels in household dust, human bodily
19fluids, and the environment.

20(e) Code provisions regulating plastic foam insulations in
21buildings were first introduced in the early 1960s. Those code
P3    1provisions do not specify that chemicals be added to foam plastic
2insulation, but in practice organohalogen flame-retardant
3compounds arebegin insert commonlyend insert added to meet test requirements.

4(f) Despite these requirements, in the 1970s, serious fires
5occurred from exposed foam plastic insulation. To address this
6issue, the 1976 Uniform Building Code required plastic foam
7insulation to be protected by a thermal barrier, usually as, or in the
8form of, 0.5-inch-thick gypsum wallboard.

9(g) Although, in most circumstances, the thermal barrier
10regulations have been deemed to be sufficient for fire safety,
11chemical flame retardants are still also required. Virtually all
12foam-plastic insulation materials in the United States today,
13including extruded and expanded polystyrene, polyisocyanurate,
14and spray polyurethane foam, are treated with halogenated flame
15retardants.

16(h) Many flame retardants are known to pose serious health and
17environmental hazards and arebegin delete activelyend delete being banned or eliminated
18from use in many parts of the world.

19(i) Comprehensive investigations by fire-safety experts cast into
20doubt the contention that the addition of flame retardants, at the
21concentrations typically used in foam insulation,begin delete measurably end delete
22 improves fire safety.

23(j) The presence of flame retardants does not prevent foam
24plastic from burning and upon combustion can significantly
25increase hazardous products like smoke, soot, carbon monoxide,
26and potentially carcinogenic dioxins.

27(k) The Steiner Tunnel Test (ASTM E-84), the most common
28test procedure used to determine flammability, flame spread, and
29smoke developed, produces misleading results when applied to
30foam plastic insulation.

31(l) Flame retardants add to the cost of foam insulation materials
32while not appreciably enhancing fire safety. Thermal barriers, such
33as drywall, providebegin delete far greaterend deletebegin insert adequateend insert protection against fire and
34fire-spread than flame retardants.

35(m) The International Code Council is considering adopting
36exemptions tobegin insert the Steiner Tunnelend insert flame spread and smoke
37developed requirements for foam plastics in the International
38Residential Code where adequate thermal barriers, such as
390.5-inch-thick gypsum wallboard or one-inch thick masonry or
40concrete, are present.

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SEC. 2.  

Section 18934.6 is added to the Health and Safety
2Code
, to read:

3

18934.6.  

(a) The Legislature finds and declares that it is in the
4best interest of the state tobegin delete eliminateend deletebegin insert reduce the use of flame
5retardantend insert
chemicalsbegin delete fromend deletebegin insert inend insert building insulation, while preserving
6building fire safety and encouraging healthy building practices.

7(b) The commission shall adopt, approve, codify, and publish,
8during its next code adoption cycle,begin insert updated flammabilityend insert standards
9that accomplish both of the following:

10(1) Maintain overall building fire safety while giving full
11consideration to the long-term human and ecological health impacts
12associated with chemical flame retardants.

13(2) Ensure that there is adequate protection from fires that travel
14between walls and into confined areas, including crawl spaces and
15attics, for occupants of the building and any firefighters who may
16be in the building during a fire.



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