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 September 2007

Protection While We Sleep

Vincent Diaz, a member of several ASTM International committees, including D13 on Textiles, compares the components that make up the interior and exterior of a mattress to those used in the brakes of a car. “When you hit the brakes, all the components have to work together; when you expose a mattress to an open flame, the critical textile components must work together to keep the flame from spreading.” In the case of either a car or a mattress, the results of components not working together can be catastrophic.

In an effort to save lives and prevent injuries caused by the rapid spread of flames on a mattress, all mattresses manufactured after July 1 must conform to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standard, 16 CFR Part 1633, Federal Flammability (Open Flame) Standard for Mattress Sets. This CPSC standard is based on a State of California Technical Bulletin that inspired the development of two important ASTM International standards, D 7016, Test Method to Evaluate Edge Binding Components Used in Mattresses After Exposure to an Open Flame, and D 7140, Test Method to Measure Heat Transfer Through Textile Thermal Barrier Materials.

California State Assembly Bill 603 was first introduced in 2001 and promulgated the following year. The bill went into effect as California Technical Bulletin 603, Requirements and Test Procedures for Resistance of a Mattress/Box Spring Set to a Large Open Flame, on Jan. 1, 2005. It served as a model for the CPSC standard, which was announced in early 2006. Flames spread more slowly on a mattress that meets the requirements of 16 CFR Part 1633, giving people in a burning room more time to escape before the fire gets out of control.

Both D 7016 and D 7140 measure the ability of critical components to withstand a flame impingement and retain their integrity for a minimum of 30 minutes. D 7016 measures the flammability characteristics of mattress edge bindings and sewing threads during and after exposure to an open flame ignition source. Because edge bindings and sewing threads are critical elements in holding a mattress together, it is vitally important that these components are able to meet the minimum requirements for performance outlined in D 7016.

D 7140 covers the evaluation of heat transfer of textile materials that are used as thermal barriers when exposed to a calibrated convective and radiant energy heat source for 60 seconds. This test method is used to evaluate heat transfer when thermal barriers are used in conjunction with materials that demonstrate behaviors such as charring, dripping, embrittlement, ignition, melting and shrinkage when exposed to high heat.

Diaz says that D 7016 and D 7140 were developed to test components for conformance to the California Technical Bulletin and that each of the standards will be used extensively by mattress component manufacturers now that the CSPC standard has been implemented. “Many manufacturers use D 7016 and D 7140 to verify the performance of the components they buy so these documents are going to be around for a very long time,” says Diaz, who also notes that ASTM standards are important in this kind of testing because “they provide a strong degree of objectivity and they require data to support findings.”

In addition to being updated as necessary, Diaz says that both standards will likely be used in the development of federal bed clothing regulations for comforters and other top-of-the-bed materials.

Obviously, drivers feel better when they know that the components in their automotive braking systems are running smoothly. ASTM International standards D 7016 and D 7140 exist to ensure that an equally important component system — the mattress on which we sleep — works properly and safely for us.