The House yesterday passed a bill that would establish interim emergency safety standards on the manufacture of home insulation.
The bill is similar to one that already has passed the Senate, and conferees hope to meet next week and eliminate the differences.
The legislation was spurred by several reports that untreated or improperly prepared cellulose insulation caused home fires. Congress decided to act because more than a year had passed after the reports of fire with no final act on by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The bill would force the CPSC to adopt an existing General Services Administration safety standard within 45 days of passage. The commission then would be able to conduct further study to see if that standard would have to be altered. Last month, the CPSC said it was abandoning its own efforts and would support congressional implementation of the GSA standard.
CPSC staffers have said that strict rules governing the development of safety standards prevented them from moving faster on the home insulation issue. The legislation that passed by voice vote yesterday provides short cuts around some of the time-consuming roadblocks in the Consumer Product Safety Act.
The major problem with home insulation is not with the reputable firms, said Sen. Wendell Ford (D-Ky.), who sponsored the legislation on the Senate side. "I'm concerned about the 600 new operations that have begun in the past 18 to 24 months, some using grinders in the back of a truck," Ford said.
Because several states offer incentives to save energy by insulating homes better, many consumers began adding insulation during the past two or three years.
Due to critical shortages in fiber-glass and other substances used for insulation, cellulose insulation was in great demand.Cellulose insulation is ground paper or wood treated with a flame-retardant chemical.
But improperly prepared cellulose insulation can cause home fires, and many of the new entrants into the cellulose manufacturing field are not treating the insulation with proper caution, according to a staff report from the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee.