Bill to protect kids and firefighters from toxic flame retardants takes a step towards passage

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

CLEAN WATER ACTION * ALLIANCE FOR A HEALTHY TOMORROW

BOSTON—Today the Joint Committee on Public Health of the Massachusetts legislature took swift and decisive action to protect the health of kids and firefighters by giving a favorable report to legislation to ban toxic flame retardants in children’s products, household furniture and other products.

S.1230/H.3500 An Act to protect children families and firefighters from toxic chemicals (The Children and Firefighters Protection Act) is sponsored by Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton) and Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge). 

In the previous legislative session, the bill was enacted by the legislature on January 1st, 2019 but Governor Baker declined to sign the legislation—effectively vetoing it.

The Public Health Committee, Chaired by Representative John Mahoney (D-Worcester) and Senator Joanne Comerford (D-Northampton), heard the bill on May 7th, it’s first hearing of the year.  Today the Committee gave the bill a favorable report. This bill was among the first three reported out of the Committee this year—all today.  The Committee made no changes to the language despite significant industry pressure to weaken the bill through exemptions for certain products or chemicals.

The bill would ban 11 toxic flame retardant chemicals in children’s products, household furniture, bedding, window coverings and carpeting. It would also give the Department of Environmental Protection the authority to ban additional flame retardant chemicals in those products if the chemicals pose a health threat.

Toxic flame retardants are not needed to meet modern flammability standards. However, they are often added to highchairs, car seats, nursing pads, furniture, carpet pads, electronic equipment (including toys), and many more common household products. 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. Children’s developing bodies are much more vulnerable to the health risks associated with flame retardants than adults. Their tendency to touch their faces and mouths add to the danger and put them at even greater risk.

Worse yet, firefighters are exposed to flame retardants when they go into burning buildings. Studies have shown that these flame retardants are linked to cancer, nervous system damage, decreased fertility, and other health problems. Firefighters, public health organizations, parent groups, environmental advocates, and others have been pushing for years to ban them.

Quotes from supporters of the legislation:

Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director, Clean Water Action: “Thanks Chairman Mahoney, Chairwoman Comerford and the members of the Public Health Committee for recognizing that the time to act is now and for standing up for the health of kids and firefighters rather than giving in to industry’s insidious attempts to weaken protections for children and firefighters.  Thanks also to Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Spilka for their leadership in getting this bill passed in 2018, and of course to bill champions Representative Decker and Senator Creem and the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.  We look forward to working with all to see that this bill become law this year so that we can truly protect those who are most vulnerable to the damage caused by toxic flame retardants.

Representative Marjorie Decker: “I continue to be very appreciative of my House colleagues and leadership, including Chair Mahoney and Speaker DeLeo, who have continued to choose the side of science, public health and the lives of firefighters and children.”

Senator Cynthia Stone Creem: “Now that the bill has once again had a very well-attended hearing, and been released favorably with no changes by the Joint Committee, we are ready to take this bill all the way to enactment,” said Sen. Creem.  “We must protect the public, including children and firefighters, by banning these dangerous chemicals from products in our homes.”

Charley Stevenson, Principal, Integrated Eco Strategy, based in North Adams: “Banning chemical flame retardants is an imperative for many of our project owners, both here in MA and across the country. When this requirement is shared with the manufacturers, they often can meet our request, without added costs. So we know it's possible, and more importantly, we know it is the right thing to do to protect human health.”

Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG: “If this bill was a library book, the overdue bill would be astronomical. It's well past time to enact this law which will protect our health, our safety, and our first responders.”

Cheryl Osimo, Executive Director, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition: “Thankfully our voices have been heard on behalf of children, families, and firefighters across the state.”

Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, Executive Director at the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health: “While serving their communities, firefighters put themselves at great personal risk not just from flames but from mixtures of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic chemicals. Data shows that firefighters experience increased risk of certain cancers greater than the general public. We commend the Public Health Committee for taking this practical, feasible step toward protecting the health and safety of those who protect us.”

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Elizabeth Saunders
617-338-8131 x203
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