As a global home-furnishing brand, we believe we have a responsibility to create products that are as fire safe and healthy as possible. This means we have a high level of fire safety in our products and at the same time, we refrain from using chemicals and substances that can be harmful to people and the environment.
We are able to do this because we have five dimensions that we call Democratic Design at the heart of every product we design and develop. The five dimensions include great form and function, good quality, high focus on sustainability, and an affordable price. On top of this, every new product now includes circular capabilities for prolonged product and material life.
Designing safer products
The IKEA Democratic Design mind-set ensures that when we develop upholstered furniture and mattresses, we work on both our safety and sustainability promises to find the best solution and create a great product. What this means is when we address the fire safety concerns, we understand that we cannot do it at the expense of health and the environment. And, when we consider health and environmental needs, we also look for ways to mitigate fire risks.
To put it simply, IKEA takes an “and” approach over an “either/or” approach. We aim to:
- Eliminate harmful chemical flame retardants, and
- Increase fire safety in our upholstered products and mattresses, and
- Enable circular capabilities in all of our products.
Maintaining safety standards
Globally, legislators have adopted different approaches when it comes to product fire safety for upholstered furniture and mattresses. While IKEA always aims to refrain from the use of specific chemicals in our products as described in our Chemical Strategy, we always meet all local market requirements.
And, there are several big steps we have taken on our own to to balance the health and safety agendas. For example, we phased out all brominated flame retardants in upholstered furniture and mattresses in 2000.
But existing fire safety regulations in some markets still demand specific testing requirements, such as large open flame tests, which can prevent many companies from completely avoiding the use of chemical flame retardants and hinder the chance to implement innovative solutions. IKEA wants to avoid this. There is growing research and a common understanding of the hazards that many flame retardants have on people’s health and the environment in the long term. And, questions remain about the effectiveness of these types of chemicals in preventing fires over time, the toxicity of the chemicals in fires, and the implication of these chemicals on materials for future use.
At IKEA, we believe we need to find ways to remove unwanted chemicals and offer a high level of fire safety. There are other solutions to flame retardants. For one, fire barriers can be used to provide fireproof products. IKEA has developed an interliner that enables fire-resistant products. It is essentially a dual-layer carded non-woven material, a fire barrier, which slows down burning time and increases fire safety in our products. By doing this, we have managed to remove all chemical flame retardants for the entire US market, beginning in 2015.
From a fire safety perspective, products with today’s interliner can pass a smoulder ignition test. From a health and environmental perspective, this is done without the use of toxic chemicals. There are other material solutions as well, such as minimising the use of foam, attention to the quality of textiles, or the combination of textiles. All of these solutions can also help slow the spread of fire and minimise the use of chemicals. And as a result, this enables circular ambitions by providing more “clean” products for reuse and recyclability purposes. But even with these solutions, many companies simply cannot meet decades-old large open flame testing methods in specific markets without the use of chemical flame retardants.
Fortunately, there is a healthy debate underway on flammability testing requirements. IKEA welcomes this important discussion. IKEA wants to ensure that legislation and requirements in all markets keep pace with the research and expertise from fire, health, and environmental communities. Based on our experience, we think it is possible to strike the balance. It requires flexible approaches to testing that make room for innovative solutions and encourage new ways of thinking.
At IKEA, we always want to ensure the safety of our customers. Building a regulation that takes all of these agendas into account is a challenge. We need to address the complexity head-on and find the best solution that balances the interests of people and the planet. IKEA will continue to invest in research and new technologies to help us move forward on the flammability issue. But we can’t do this alone. Nor can the fire community, health, and environmental experts, health care community, or legislators. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to find the best solution.
A safer life at home is about continuous improvements. We can always learn something new and improve things. It is our commitment to you is that we will always strive to make our products as safe as possible for you, your family, and your environment.