Kaiser Permanente, which owns 32 hospitals in three states, plans to use its purchasing power to sway furniture manufacturers to stop putting flame retardants into upholstered couches and chairs.
Kaiser spends about $30 million annually on furniture, including upholstered items.
Effective immediately, the Oakland, Calif.-based health system will require that upholstered furniture installed in new or remodeled buildings will not contain added fire-retardant chemicals. The new policy does not apply to medical furniture such as bed mattresses and exam tables.
The new standard comes several months after a California law went into effect that no longer requires furniture makers to put flame retardants into upholstered furniture. A state law implemented in the 1970s required the inclusion of the chemicals to stop cigarette fires and became a voluntary standard for national manufacturers for decades. But recent studies have tied the chemicals to reproductive issues, development delays in children and cancer.