Legislature sends flame retardants ban to Governor’s desk...again

Thursday, December 24, 2020

 Advocates and firefighters call on Baker to sign the bill into law

BOSTON—Last night the Massachusetts House and Senate passed a ban on toxic flame retardant chemicals sending it to the Governor’s desk just under the wire as the end of the two year legislative session approaches.  Firefighters, environment and health advocates and others hailed the bill as a critical move to protect public health and called on Governor Charlie Baker to sign the bill into law.

“Kudos to Speaker DeLeo, President Spilka, bill sponsors Senator Cindy Creem and Representative Marjorie Decker, and the entire Massachusetts legislature for making  it a priority to protect kids and firefighters in a tumultuous and challenging year,” said Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director for Clean Water Action.  “We call on Governor Charlie Baker to do the right thing for the people of Massachusetts and sign this bill into law."

The Children and Firefighters Protection Act, sponsored by Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton) and Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) has been to the governor’s desk once before.  A previous version was enacted by the house and senate on January 1, 2019 - the last day of the 2017-2018 legislative session. The Governor declined to sign the bill, effectively vetoing it as the legislative session was over.  

The Governor now has 10 days--until Saturday, January 2nd--to sign the bill, veto it or send it back to the legislature with amendments.  If he chooses one of the latter options, the legislature has until the last day of session--Tuesday, January 5th--to override a veto or amendments.

"As the Senate sponsor of this important public health bill, I have worked to prevent the sale of products laced with unnecessary and toxic flame retardants," said Senator Creem. "I look forward to knowing that home furnishings and children's products sold in Massachusetts will be free of these harmful chemicals."

Representative Decker said, “I’m really thankful that Speaker DeLeo along with Chairman Michlewitz  have stood up for children and firefighters. This is a testament to what happens when lawmakers follow science over the chemical industry’s propaganda. Once again we have passed a bill to ban toxic flame retardants in children’s toys and furniture and hopefully this time, the Governor will  choose to stand with public health and families and firefighters. This truly speaks to our values here in Massachusetts.”

The Children and Firefighters Protection Act  (H.4900) will ban 11 toxic flame retardants in children’s products, mattresses, household furniture, carpeting and window coverings. It also gives the Department of Environmental Protection the authority to ban additional flame retardant chemicals that are hazardous to human health. If this bill becomes law, Massachusetts will become the 14th state to regulate toxic flame retardants.  

“The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM) are grateful that the Massachusetts Legislature has not lost sight of this important policy since Governor Baker’s veto two years ago,” said PFFM President Richard MacKinnon, Jr. “In the last two years, numerous firefighters in Massachusetts have died from, and dozens have been diagnosed with, various forms of cancer. This legislation is a direct result of the significant scientific data that has come to light over the last several years proving the link between flame retardant chemicals and cancer. More importantly, this legislation is a testament to the persistence and advocacy of lawmakers, public health advocates, environmental advocates and the firefighter community. A special thanks to Representative Marjorie Decker and Senator Cindy Creem for never giving up the fight!”

“The Fire Chiefs’ Association of Massachusetts is pleased to see this important legislation advance and hopefully become law,” said Chief Michael Newbury, President of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Massachusetts. “Occupational cancer in the firefighting community has taken far too great a toll, and this act needs to happen to help reduce that threat, and protect not only our firefighters, but the general public and our environment as well. We thank those in the Legislature that have worked so hard to see this through.”

“This bill is two wins in one: it gets rid of  ‘flame retardants’ that don’t slow down fires anyway, and--adding insult to injury--that are made of, and release toxic chemicals. It’s way past time to ban them, literally for good,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG.

“Cancer is the leading cause of death for firefighters, accounting for three out of five deaths in the line of duty.  We commend Representative Decker, Senator Creem and the legislature for taking this practical, feasible step toward protecting the health and safety of those who protect us,” said Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, Executive Director of MassCOSH.  “Firefighters already put themselves at great personal risk while serving their communities.  By reducing their exposure to carcinogenic and toxic chemicals, this law will go a long way  to minimizing the adverse health effects of their work.”

“Because many clients don’t want toxic flame retardants, architects and interior designers have been asking manufacturers to remove flame retardants from building products for years,” said Meredith Elbaum, Executive Director of Built Environment Plus.  “Manufacturers have responded by coming up with healthier solutions thereby demonstrating that this can be done. By signing the Bill, Governor Baker will ensure everyone has equal access to healthier products, not just those projects--and people--who have the means to advocate for them.” 

"The Environmental League of Massachusetts is proud to stand with Rep. Decker, Sen. Creem, the members of the legislature, and all the advocates who have tirelessly pushed to protect the public's health from toxic flame retardants," said Casey Bowers, Assistant Vice President for Government Relations at the Environmental League of Massachusetts.

The Children and Firefighters Protection Act is supported by the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow coalition, the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, Built Environment+, the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts and many others.  The first flame retardants bills were filed in the Senate in 2013 by Senator Creem and the House in 2015 by Representative Decker.

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The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow (AHT) is a coalition of everyday people, scientists, health professionals, workers, and educators seeking to prevent harm to human health from toxic chemicals. www.healthytomorrow.org

Clean Water Action works for clean water, clean air and healthy communities for all. www.cleanwater.org/ma

 

Elizabeth Saunders
617-869-3937
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