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California Rule Change A Step Toward Fewer Flame Retardants Nationwide

Posted by SAFER States on Feb 11, 2013

Most couches in the United States have large amounts of flame retardants, which can be harmful to infants.

A California regulation that required massive amounts of flame retardants, including the harmful chemical chlorinated Tris in furniture and baby products, is being changed. The rule—called TB 117—required that foam be able to withstand 12 seconds of exposure to an open flame without catching fire.

Since the rule was enacted, however, it has been discovered that interior foam is not the cause of most fires, and the flame retardant requirement was not saving lives. TB117 led to manufacturers putting massive amounts of flame retardant chemicals, many of which are now being found to be harmful to babies and other vulnerable populations, into foam-containing products nationwide.

The rule being lifted is a step in the right in the right direction. The trick now will be to continue to pass laws in the states that require that manufacturers remove the chemicals. We announced in January that at least 15 state legislatures will consider policies to phase out the use of toxic flame retardants. The recognition by California that these chemicals are unnecessary should help legislators to understand that it's an easier decision than ever to outlaw the toxic flame retardant chemicals.

Reaction to the news from around the Safer States coalition:

"These cancer-causing chemicals have no business in products in our homes. With a change to California's obsolete regulation and the passage of state laws banning the use of the chemicals, we can protect the health of children and families from this toxic chemical," said Sarah Doll, National Director of Safer States, a network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations in states around the country. "That's why we expect at least 15 states have legislation this year to restrict or ban toxic flame retardants."

"The chemical corporations have spent millions to defeat restrictions on these toxic chemicals in every state, and were found by a Chicago Tribune investigation to use deceptive tactics to keep their chemicals in products in our homes," comments Laurie Valeriano, Executive Director at the Washington Toxics Coalition. "With our allies in the health and firefighter communities, we are supporting a bill that would ban chlorinated Tris here in Washington."

"In New York and California, and other places, the flame retardant industry has targeted communities of color to attempt to get them to defend their products, which is particularly egregious, since people of color are disproportionately impacted by flame retardant chemicals and all chemical exposure," says Kathleen A. Curtis, LVN, coordinator, Alliance for Toxic Free Fire Safety.

"We are relieved that our Governor Jerry Brown is finally proposing a halt to bad policy that has enabled toxic flame retardants to contaminate the world," says Ana Mascareñas, Policy and Communications Director for Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles."Now if the public can win over protections for our health in the 45 day public comment period, we will have fire safety without the virtually forced used of toxic flame retardants."

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