(Boston, MA) At a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security today, Massachusetts fire fighters, citizens, scientists, health professionals, workers, and educators seeking preventive action on toxic hazards will call for swift passage of a bill that would help to protect fire fighters and children from toxic flame retardants. The legislation, H. 2119, The Children and Firefighters Protection Act would ban the use of hazardous flame retardants in children’s products and upholstered furniture.
“Firefighters have cancer rates three times higher than the general public,” said Edward Kelly, president of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts. “When we enter a home fire we breathe in gasses and toxins from flame retardants that put us at a higher risk. We're calling on the legislature for swift passage of this bill as it will no doubt save lives.
“Flame retardants cause cancer and the way they’ve been used for decades, they don’t stop fires,” said Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director for Clean Water Action. “Our children’s health is at risk, fire fighters health is at risk, and many furniture manufacturers are already making fire safe products without flame retardants. It’s time for these toxic chemicals to go.”
Due to a California flammability standard, known as TB117, that was found to be based on faulty science, toxic flame retardants are added to highchairs, car seats, nursing pads, furniture, carpet pads, electronic equipment (including toys), and many more common household products. The California standard was revised in 2013 and the new standard can be met with or without flame retardants.
"Every single one of us has flame retardants in our bodies, and children often have even more than adults,” said Laura Spark of Jamaica Plain, a member of the Governing Board of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and a participant, along with her daughter Naomi Carrigg, in a 2004 Environmental Working Group study on flame retardants in the blood of American women and their toddlers. “The concentration of flame retardants in my daughter’s blood was 6.5 times higher than mine. Since we now know that the chemicals are not needed or even effective, Massachusetts should take action to eliminate their use.”
Flame retardants have been linked to severe health problems including cancer, birth defects, decreased fertility, and nervous system damage. These chemicals do not stay in the products; they get out into the dust in our homes and the air that we breathe, and ultimately into our bodies. Fire fighters are exposed to flame retardants when they go into burning buildings.
“Studies show that flame retardants do not stay put in the products that they are added to. They are pervasive in household dust, and we are exposed on a regular basis,” said Kathryn Rodgers, Staff Scientist at the Newton-based Silent Spring Institute. “The health impacts linked to flame retardant exposure are very serious and reducing children’s and fire fighters exposure is much needed for public health protection.”
H.2119 will require manufacturers and retailers to cease the use of flame retardants in children’s products and residential upholstered furniture sold in Massachusetts. The flame retardant chemicals that would be phased out include Chlorinated Tris (TDCPP, TCEP, TBBPA), Decabromodiphenyl ether, Antimony trioxide, HBCD, TBPH, TBB, Chlorinated paraffins, and TCPP.”
The long-term health of our community is in danger. Increasing public concern has already pushed manufacturers and retailers to take steps on their own to eliminate these toxins from their products. Passing the Children and Firefighter Protection Act would be a practical first step towards protecting our most vulnerable citizens and those who risk their lives for our families every day,” said Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge), lead sponsor of the bill.
The legislation builds on momentum from 13 other states that have banned Polybrominated di-phenyl ether (PBDE) and/or Chlorinated Tris chemicals for use in children’s products and/or residential furniture. In addition, many major American companies are phasing out the use of toxic flame retardants, including Ashley Furniture, our nation’s largest furniture retailer. Many other furniture chains, including Crate & Barrel, The Futon Shop, and La-Z-Boy, all have flame retardant free furniture available for purchase.
The following individuals testified in support of the legislation at the hearing:
• Edward Kelly, President, Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts
• Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director, Clean Water Action, coordinator, Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow
• Kathryn Rodgers, Staff Scientist, Silent Spring Institute
• Tolle Graham, Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health
• Chris Pontus, RN, Massachusetts Nurses Association
• Laura Spark, mother from Jamaica Plain
• Margo Golden, President, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition
• Lynn Wolbarst, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts