In a move that could affect consumers nationwide, California officials today unveiled plans to scrap an obscure 1975 rule that led to the buildup of toxic flame retardants in sofas, loveseats and upholstered chairs in millions of American homes.

The proposed changes, slated to be officially adopted later this year, mean the foam cushioning in furniture and baby products soon might be free of flame retardants, which are linked to cancer, developmental problems and impaired fertility. The new rule instead would require upholstery fabric to resist smoldering cigarettes — the biggest cause of furniture fires.

Furniture makers have said they can meet that standard without adding chemical flame retardants to foam or fabric…

Michael Hawthorne, Sam Roe and Patricia Callahan