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.