Support Massachusetts Children & Firefighters

Massachusetts Children & Firefighters Need Your Support!

Bill H.5024, An Act to Protect Children, Families, and Firefighters from Harmful Flame Retardants is sitting on Governor Baker’s desk awaiting his signature.

After 8 years of hearings and testimonies, the Massachusetts House and Senate voted on New Year’s Day to pass H.5024, a bill which bans 11 toxic flame retardants from children’s products, mattresses and bedding, upholstered furniture, and window treatments. Each year, there are more cases of cancer among firefighters and more children with health problems, as both are exposed to these dangerous toxins at high levels.

There is now just 24 hours to make your voice heard on this important piece of legislation! 

Governor Baker must sign the bill by Friday, January 11, 2019, for it to become law. Please call the Governor’s office by 5 p.m. Thursday to express your support of the bill and to urge him to protect the health of Massachusetts residents.

  • Call the Governor’s office at 617-725-4005
  • Give your name and city or town
  • Tell Governor Baker that you want him to sign H.5024, and share your own reason for supporting the bill

Call today and together we can make a difference in the health of future generations!


Victory in MA State Senate

On May 19, 2016, the Massachusetts Senate passed an Act to protect children and families from harmful flame retardants! Now on to the MA House of Representatives.

The following update is provided courtesy of Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow.

BOSTON, Mass.—The Massachusetts Senate voted favorably to ban eleven toxic flame retardants from children’s products and upholstered furniture sold or manufactured in the commonwealth. The vote was hailed by firefighters, legislators and public health advocates as a significant victory for public health and the environment who also called on the House to pass the bill swiftly.

“The value of flame retardants is certainly doubtful and given the extremely high cancer rates of firefighters the more toxic chemicals we can get out of our environment the less exposure we will have,” said Ed Kelly, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. “This bill will ensure the health and safety not only of firefighters, but our children and all citizens of Massachusetts.”

S.2293, An Act to protect children and families from harmful flame retardants was filed by Senator Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) along with 26 co-sponsors. A similar bill (H.2119) was filed by Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) in the House. Creem commented, “I am proud of the Senate’s action today to ban the sale of home furnishings and children’s products that unnecessarily contain toxic flame retardants, and I urge my colleagues in the House to follow suit. The more we learn about the health risks to our children, to our firefighters, and to the environment generally, the harder we must work to keep them out of our homes.”

The bill echoes a growing national outcry over the use of flame retardants in consumer products. In 2012, the Chicago Tribune published a series of articles exposing the deceptive campaign by the tobacco and chemical industries to keep in place policies requiring the heavy use of flame retardants. The Tribune reported that through a blatant misrepresentation of facts, industry advocates misled the American public into believing that flame retardants were a life-saving technology. In reality, the heavy doses of flame retardants added to couches, mattresses, kid’s pajamas and other items have done more harm than good.

“Flame retardants were used for decades in ways that were ineffective at stopping fires and resulted in all of our bodies being contaminated,” commented Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director of Clean Water Action and coordinator of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow. “Today’s fire safety standards are more protective of public safety and can be achieved with or without the use of toxic flame retardants. This bill is not a choice between public safety and public health; rather it is a choice to achieve public safety in the way that provides the highest protection to our most vulnerable.”

Flame retardant chemicals have been linked to cancer, learning disabilities, thyroid disease, infertility and a host of other health problems. They migrate out of products and into air and dust where they can easily be inhaled or ingested. Children and infants are among the most vulnerable to flame retardant exposure because they are undergoing critical periods of growth and development, and because they spend so much time on the floor where dust settles. Firefighters are exposed to more than their fair share when they enter buildings where flame retardant furniture is burning.

“We thank Massachusetts Senators for passing this bill to protect the health of the citizens of Massachusetts, to defend the health of our brave firefighters, and to give our children and future generations the benefit of living a safer, healthier, and fuller life,” said Margo Simon Golden, President, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition. “The House should follow suit soon so that we can stop the needless exposure to Massachusetts families and firefighters.”

“The Lung Association applauds the Senate for taking action on the issue of hazardous and harmful flame retardants,” added Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Firefighters often face elevated risk of serious lung diseases and this bill is poised to make their jobs safer, along with the general public, by phasing out these chemicals.”

In order to become law, S.2293 must also be passed by the House of Representatives, which has until July 31st to act. If the bill becomes law, Massachusetts will join 13 other states, including Maine, Vermont, Minnesota and Washington, in restricting the use of one or more flame retardants. Due to public pressure some major retailers and manufacturers, such as Ashley Furniture, Macy’s and Crate and Barrel, have voluntarily phase out flame retardants from their products, but the transition has been slow, and it is often hard for shoppers to know which products are safe and which are not.

 


Boston bill protects public from exposure to toxic chemicals, reflecting growing national demand for flame retardant-free furniture.

On March 23, 2016, Boston City Councilors passed a bill to amend the city’s Fire Prevention Code, allowing hospitals, schools, colleges, and other public buildings with sprinkler systems to use furniture free of toxic flame retardant chemicals.

“This bill protects people from needless exposure to harmful flame retardants, creating a safer and healthier environment for all those who live, work, serve, and learn in our great city,” says Josh Zakim, City Councilor and the bill’s sponsor. The bill also brings Boston in line with the Massachusetts Fire Code’s regulation for upholstered furniture.

Until this bill’s passage, Boston was the only major city in the U.S. that enforced a decades-old flammability standard, called TB 133, with no exceptions for buildings equipped with automatic sprinklers. The vast majority of manufacturers can only meet TB 133 by adding large amounts of flame retardant chemicals to furniture. In contrast, other places in the country, including the rest of Massachusetts, follow a newer flammability standard that does not necessitate the use of flame retardants in furniture. In addition, there are other non-toxic ways to achieve fire safety, such as the use of sprinkler systems, smoke detectors, and smoking bans.

Passed by a unanimous vote and awaiting signature by Mayor Marty Walsh, the bill received widespread support from healthcare leaders, advocates, firefighters, students, and other groups concerned about the health effects associated with exposure to these chemicals. “I applaud Boston City Councilors for considering public health as well as public safety,” says Kathryn Rodgers, a staff scientist at Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition’s sister organization, Silent Spring Institute. “Our research has shown that flame retardant chemicals migrate out of furniture into the air and dust, and ultimately people’s bodies, putting people’s health at risk.” Studies have linked exposure to flame retardants with cancer, thyroid disruption, low birth weight, lowered IQ, fertility problems, and many other health issues.

The bill’s passing is also welcome news for Boston Fire Fighters Local 718, who along with firefighters across the state and throughout the nation has been advocating for less toxic fire safety methods. Firefighters are especially vulnerable to flame retardants since large amounts of the chemicals are released into the air during a fire. Cancer rates among firefighters in Boston are significantly higher than they are among the city’s other residents.

“This is an important step toward protecting people from exposure to dangerous chemicals that we know are associated with increased cancer risk,” says Margo Simon Golden, board president of Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition.

The bill now gives schools, colleges, hospitals and other large institutions the green light to purchase flame retardant-free furniture. John Messervy, corporate director of design and construction at Partners HealthCare, also praised the City Council for its decision. “These fire retardants are not safe and do not belong in a healthcare environment,” says Messervy. Also, as the furniture industry has begun to move away from manufacturing furniture treated with chemicals, furniture containing flame retardants comes at a premium. “For Partners Healthcare, that premium amounts to millions of dollars in added costs per year,” he says.

“The city made the right choice today in adopting a new flammability standard,” says Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts director of Clean Water Action and coordinator of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow. “The passage of this important bill will protect millions of people from these dangerous chemicals.”

Efforts to phase out flame retardants continue at the state level. In Massachusetts, two bills—which were reported favorably out of the Committee on Public Health and the Committee on Public Safety last week—would require manufacturers and retailers to phase out the use of certain flame retardants in children’s products and residential upholstered furniture. “Both bills will need continued support through the legislative process in order to become law, so we urge the Massachusetts legislature to follow the lead of the city of Boston in being proactive about reducing flame retardant exposures in our everyday lives,” says Saunders.


We Support Updating Boston’s Fire Code

On November 9th, the Boston City Council’s Committee on Public Safety held a hearing to discuss updates to the Boston Fire Prevention Code. Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow (AHT) coalition members and supporters attended the hearing to testify and show their support. As a member of the AHT Governing Board, the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition stands with the coalition to reduce exposure to toxic flame retardants.

The hearing was crowded with concerned citizens, students, advocates, furniture manufacturers, healthcare workers, firefighters, and others to voice their opinions about fire codes.

For more information about the hearing, please read this article from AHT.

Why do we care about flame retardants?

Synthetic flame retardant chemicals are added to upholstered furniture (plus to bedding, electronics, and more). These chemicals can leach from products and settle in our air and dust, sometimes at levels above federal guidelines. Many flame retardants are “endocrine disrupting compounds,” which means they alter the natural functioning of hormones in our bodies. These chemicals have been linked with cancer and altered reproductive and brain development.

Boston’s current flammability standards for public spaces have resulted in an overuse of flame retardant chemicals in furniture. Updating the fire code would allow public institutions with automatic fire sprinklers, (including schools, libraries and hospitals) to use flame retardant-free furniture.


Flame Retardants Update: Kaiser pledges to only purchase flame retardant free furniture

iStock_000004404098Small 
In our March/April eNewsletter, we reported on TB117-2013, the revised flammability standard passed in California in January 2014 that has become de-facto standard for much of the United States. The new standard is an important step towards reducing exposures to flame retardant chemicals, which are often found in high levels in our homes and bodies and have been linked to many health problems including cancer, infertility, and birth defects. 

The revised TB 117-2013 is a performance-based flammability standard that allows furniture to be made without using these toxic chemicals.

Since the passing of TB117-2013, Kaiser Permanente, an integrated managed healthcare consortium, heralded a huge shift in their purchasing of furniture to support its hospital facilities. As of June 2014, they have pledged to purchase only furniture free of added flame retardant chemicals and that meets the requirements of TB117-2013. Kaiser Permanente spends roughly $30 million a year to furnish its hospitals, medical offices and other buildings with chairs, benches, sofas and other furniture.

TB117-2013 protects public health by replacing a flammability standard that required added chemicals with no increase in fire safety. Instead, TB117-2013 requires a smolder test for fabric, which was absent from the old open-flame standard.

Kaiser Permanente is the first health system to commit to removing chemicals from hospital furniture citing concerns over exposure to potential toxics. The decision could impact more than 38 hospitals and 600 medical offices in eight states and the District of Columbia. This decision could also herald a shift for other industries and sectors of business to change their purchasing habits.

Read the full TB117-2013 Technical Bulletin

Read More on TB-117 Flammability Standards and what this means for Massachusetts.