Amended in Assembly April 22, 2013

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 Sectionbegin delete 18934.6end deletebegin insert 13108.1end insert 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 to reduce the use of flame retardant chemicals from building insulation, while preserving building fire safety and encouraging healthy building practices. The bill would require thebegin delete commission to adopt, approve, codify, and publish, during its next code adoption cycle,end deletebegin insert State Fire Marshal, in consultation with the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings, and Thermal Insulation, to, by January 1, 2015, propose for adoption by the commissionend insert updated flammability 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:

P2    1

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
14compounds may be associated with neurological and developmental
15toxicity and endocrine disruption, and are possible carcinogens.

P3    1(d) Flame retardants, whose primary use is in building insulation,
2are found at increasing levels in household dust, human bodily
3fluids, and the environment.

4(e) Code provisions regulating plastic foam insulations in
5buildings were first introduced in the early 1960s. Those code
6provisions do not specify that chemicals be added to foam plastic
7insulation, but in practice organohalogen flame-retardant
8compounds are commonly added to meet test requirements.

9(f) Despite these requirements, in the 1970s, serious fires
10occurred from exposed foam plastic insulation. To address this
11issue, the 1976 Uniform Building Code required plastic foam
12insulation to be protected by a thermal barrier, usually as, or in the
13form of, 0.5-inch-thick gypsum wallboard.

14(g) Although, in most circumstances, the thermal barrier
15regulations have been deemed to be sufficient for fire safety,
16chemical flame retardants are still also required. Virtually all
17foam-plastic insulation materials in the United States today,
18including extruded and expanded polystyrene, polyisocyanurate,
19and spray polyurethane foam, are treated with halogenated flame
20retardants.

21(h) Many flame retardants are known to pose serious health and
22environmental hazards and are being banned or eliminated from
23use in many parts of the world.

24(i) Comprehensive investigations by fire-safety experts cast into
25doubt the contention that the addition of flame retardants, at the
26concentrations typically used in foam insulation, improves fire
27safety.

28(j) The presence of flame retardants does not prevent foam
29plastic from burning and upon combustion can significantly
30increase hazardous products like smoke, soot, carbon monoxide,
31and potentially carcinogenic dioxins.

32(k) The Steiner Tunnel Test (ASTM E-84), the most common
33test procedure used to determine flammability, flame spread, and
34smoke developed, produces misleading results when applied to
35foam plastic insulation.

36(l) Flame retardants add to the cost of foam insulation materials
37while not appreciably enhancing fire safety. Thermal barriers, such
38as drywall, provide adequate protection against fire and fire-spread
39than flame retardants.

P4    1(m) The International Code Council is considering adopting
2exemptions to the Steiner Tunnel flame spread and smoke
3developed requirements for foam plastics in the International
4Residential Code where adequate thermal barriers, such as
50.5-inch-thick gypsum wallboard or one-inch thick masonry or
6concrete, are present.

7

SEC. 2.  

Sectionbegin delete 18934.6end deletebegin insert 13108.1end insert is added to the Health and
8Safety Code
, to read:

9

begin delete18934.6.end delete
10begin insert13108.1.end insert  

(a) The Legislature finds and declares that it is in the
11best interest of the state to reduce the use of flame retardant
12chemicals in building insulation, while preserving building fire
13safety and encouraging healthy building practices.

14(b)  begin deleteThe commission shall adopt, approve, codify, and publish,
15during its next code adoption cycle, end delete
begin insertThe State Fire Marshal, in
16consultation with the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair,
17Home Furnishings, and Thermal Insulation, shall, by January 1,
182015, propose for adoption by the commission end insert
updated
19flammability standards that accomplish both of the following:

20(1) Maintain overall building fire safety while giving full
21consideration to the long-term human and ecological health impacts
22associated with chemical flame retardants.

23(2) Ensure that there is adequate protection from fires that travel
24between walls and into confined areas, including crawl spaces and
25attics, for occupants of the building and any firefighters who may
26be in the building during a fire.



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