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New Californian regulation will halt the reason for possibly the largest flow of toxic flame retardant chemicals worldwide

WECF supported the important work of civil society organisations to stop a Californian furniture flammability rule, which was one of the major reasons for the presence of brominated flame retardants in furniture foam worldwide

18.04.2013 |IPEN & WECF

Toxic Flame Retardant Chemicals – Showdown with Chemical Industry, Health and Fire Safety Advocates. Over 87,000 Support New California Furniture Flammability Rule for Better Fire Safety Without Harmful Flame Retardant Chemicals.

In March 2013, California regulators held a public hearing to mark the end of a comment period for updating their 38-year old furniture flammability rule that has drawn the focus of scientists, firefighters, health advocates and consumers worldwide because it de facto required the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals in furniture and other products. The chemicals are linked to lower IQs in children, infertility and cancer.

Public health, environmental, social justice, labor, and firefighter organizations gave testimony and submitted more than 87,000 signatures to support the revision. These signatures represent people from every state, and public interest organizations from 36 countries also sent letters, urging California to quickly move forward for improved fire safety without relying on toxic chemicals.

The letters were submitted to the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (BEARHFTI), at today’s Hearing. Furniture manufacturers also voiced support for a new standard that would break them away from toxic chemicals used to meet the old TB 117.

Chemical industry representatives attended. One spokesperson continued to promote the discredited message that an open flame standard is needed, which promotes the use of toxic chemicals.

There was an unexpected appearance from a staff member from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, who said he was not representing the Commission's views. Robert Howell gave a technical critique of TB 117-2013. The CPSC has failed to produce a national furniture flammability standard for over 25 years.

Public health groups worry that the American Chemistry Council, which represents the toxic flame retardant chemicals manufacturers, is influencing the CPSC to retain an open flame standard that promotes the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals.

“California is long overdue for an updated fire safety standard that reflects what scientific studies have confirmed for years – that toxic, flame retardants are not effective at preventing fires,” said Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. “In fact, they do more harm than good by exposing children, pregnant mothers, families, firefighters, pets and wildlife to harmful synthetic toxins. I applaud Governor Jerry Brown’s Administration for proposing modernized regulations that will help prevent fires without relying on dangerous chemicals.”
“Firefighters are at a greater risk from these chemicals,” says Jim Doucette of the Firefighters Burn Institute <>  Sacramento , who also gave testimony. “We now know these chemical make fires more toxic, create more soot and smoke, which are the major causes of injury and death in fires with fire victims and first responders.”
Don Lucas, PhD, a combustion scientist, formerly with Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, notes, “Toxic chemical flame retardants don’t actually prevent fires under the current regulation. Many years of study have gone in to the determination that fire safety can be achieved without the use of these chemicals in upholstered furniture.”

“There's no reason to delay improved fire safety without toxic chemicals,” comments Ana Mascareñas, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles (PSR-LA), “As health professionals, we see the rise in diseases associated with toxic chemical exposure, and it is our responsibility to speak out and prevent these exposures whenever possible.

Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has tested a number of baby and children’s products, including nap mats used in childcare centers nationwide, and found toxic flame retardants in many of them.  “TB 117-2013 will help stop the flow of toxic flame retardant chemicals into our products, homes and bodies,” says Judy Levin from Center for Environmental Health. “Parents and families have the right to safer products without harmful chemicals. We expect the process of adopting this new rule to proceed without delay.”
“Given that Latino children in California have among the highest levels of flame retardant chemicals in the world, as a Latina and mother of an 11-month-year old crawling around and putting everything in her mouth, I’m worried about my daughter’s exposure and the effects on her health and development. We need this new standard now so families can buy affordable, fire safe and toxic free products and start putting an end to the disproportionate burden on low-income communities of color. Our children’s health should not come second to chemical industry profits,” said Kathryn Alcantar, who gave testimony today for Californians for a Healthy & Green Economy,  (CHANGE).

Cindy Russell, MD, treats women with cancer in her medical practice. “The California Medical Association (CMA) supports the modernization of TB-117 with a resolution that asks for fire safety without the use of toxic chemicals. Stopping exposure to chlorinated tris, for example, is preventable, and can help prevent some individuals from manifesting cancer.”

The International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), a group working on the most dangerous chemicals in the world with the United Nations, is relieved the new regulation will halt the reason for possibly the largest flow of toxic flame retardant chemicals worldwide. Olga Speranskaya from Eco-Accord in Russia and IPEN co-chair comments, “TB117 is the law that polluted the world with substances now listed in the Stockholm Convention for global elimination. The world needs an updated law and an official statement discouraging the continued use of flame retardants in products.”

“Rising concern about toxic flame retardants and their links to cancer and other health impacts is undermining consumer confidence and hurting business. To keep the US economy growing, we have to stop allowing toxic chemicals linked to health hazards in the marketplace. That’s why we started a petition <>  to tell Congress to reform the 34-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act,” says David Levine, CEO and co-founder of the American Sustainable Business Council.

“We are relieved that Governor Brown and his team have come up with a common sense approach to fire safety that protects us from toxic flame retardant chemicals,” says Victoria Rome from the Natural Resources Defense Council . “With so much support from public health, environmental, fire safety, and the furniture retail and manufacturing community, there’s no reason this new rule should be delayed”

Arlene Blum, is a scientist and Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute (GSP). “Such great news that California is at last updating its 1975 flammability standard. The new standard is a win-win for both fire safety and our health and environment.”

“Biomonitoring studies clearly demonstrate that everyone on earth now carries toxic or untested chemicals in their bodies that do not belong there," said Davis Baltz of Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute in Bolinas, California.  "The flame retardants found in California furniture are global pollutants whose dispersion throughout the biosphere has been accelerated by the outdated TB 117."

“States are watching to see if California will update it's outdated flame retardant regulation which has resulted in unnecessary toxic retardant in communities across the country. For example, chlorinated Tris, listed as a carcinogen on California’s own Proposition 65 list, has been found in products from Washington to Maine. We look to California Governor  Jerry Brown to stick with his new standard of fire safety that does not require the use of toxic chemicals,” comments Sarah Doll, National Director of SAFER States

Gretchen Lee Salter, Senior Program and Policy Manager for Breast Cancer Fund, testified at today’s hearing: “Toxic flame retardants cross the placental barrier and can alter normal breast development setting that child on a path for increased breast cancer risk. We urge the state to swiftly adopt this new standard so that California families are no longer exposed to these chemicals in their homes.”

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