During the 1980s and 1990s, the popularity of bean bags declined tremendously. This decline occurred because deaths and non-fatal incidents involving infants and children using bean bags, which prompted federal authorities in the United States, Europe, and Australia to adopt new manufacturing safety standards. Today, standards like ASTM F1912-21: Standard Specification For Safety Of Bean Bag Chairs And Bean Bag Chair Covers include safety mechanisms to prevent children from opening, climbing inside, and suffocating on the pellets within bean bag chairs.
Who Designed Bean Bag Chairs?
In 1968 during the Italian Modernism movement, three Italian designers (Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini, and Franco Teodoro) introduced the first bean bag chair for furniture. It was known as the Sacco bean bag or shapeless chair, resembling the shape of a pear. The designers were looking to create something that would be comfortable for the whole body and aesthetically appealing and unique in its design, in that the chair could adapt to various situations by taking different shapes. The target market for the chair was people belonging to or identifying with the hippie culture.
The ASTM F1912-21 Standard for Bean Bag Chairs
Bean bag chairs are defined in ASTM F1912-21 as an article of furniture composed of a fabric, vinyl, leather, or other cover with no internal support mechanism and a filling of polymeric or natural material beads. Its cover is capable of being filled with polymeric or natural material beads. ASTM F1912-21 addresses choking and suffocation hazards associated with children’s use of bean bag chairs and bean bag covers with and without zippers. Deaths and injuries pertain to the following:
- Suffocation—inside the bag
- Suffocation—pellets clogging nose/throat
- Choking—pellets in mouth
- Earache—pellets in ear
The bean bag chairs in this standard are designed to be refilled or designed with permanent closures intending to be refilled. The scope of ASTM F1912-21 does not cover products that include shredded foam or fiber-fill used as an internal filler material.
What Is the Best Filler and Fabric for a Bean Bag Chair?
The majority of bean bags have expanded polystyrene (EPS) inside them, which is a man-made plastic material resembling styrofoam. EPS is not only used for bean bag beads but also as cushioning material in packaging and transportation. It is long-lasting, cheap, light-weight, comfortable, recyclable, and resists moisture and heat. Shredded memory foam (i.e., small pieces of foam sheets) is also very popular and can be used together with EPS beads or as an alternative for indoor bean bags. Shredded foam is very adaptable, taking the shape one one’s body to allow for comfortable seating for many hours.
Fabrics like vinyl, cotton, corduroy, faux suede, faux fur, leather, silk, denim, velvel, and microsuede are used for indoor bean bags. Linen or natural fiber are popular for bean bags used indoors because they are comfortable against ones skin, durable, and washable.
Performance Requirements in ASTM F1912-21
ASTM F1912-21 details a durability test that evaluates the ability of the finished bean bag chair to contain its polymeric beads. The purpose is to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable bean bag chair design and construction. During the durability test, the test load (i.e., bean bag chair) is dropped a total of 300 times to ensure no tears, openings, or permeations of the chair upon its use after shipment. The standard maintains that prior to shipment the zipper shall be closed and permanently disabled, and all bean bag chairs must include safety warning labels.
ASTM F1912-21: Standard Specification For Safety Of Bean Bag Chairs And Bean Bag Chair Covers is available on the ANSI Webstore.