Health victory! Governor signs flame retardant labeling law

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is praising California Governor Jerry Brown and State Senator Mark Leno for their leadership in protecting children and families from harmful flame retardant chemicals. Today Governor Brown signed Senator Leno’s bill (S. 1019), which will require labeling to inform consumers when furniture contains toxic flame retardant chemicals. CEH has been a leading advocate for safer furniture made without toxic flame retardant chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems. Fire safety scientists say that these chemicals in furniture are not effective in protecting people from fires.“Consumers deserve to know when products contain ineffective, dangerous chemicals that can harm their children and families,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “While California has new standards that allow companies to make safer furniture without chemicals, it does not require them to eliminate toxic flame retardants. This vital bill will give consumers the information they need to make informed choices when shopping for furniture.”

Pressure has been mounting for companies that make home and business furniture, children’s products, and other products to eliminate harmful flame retardants. CEH has surveyed such companies and found that many are already moving away from the toxic chemicals. Labeling under SB 1019 will provide an additional incentive, since information about the use of flame retardants is a key purchasing criteria for many buyers, including individual consumers and large institutional purchasers.

For example, recently several large hospital systems announced they would preferentially purchase furniture made without these chemicals. A CEH survey of business furniture makers, conducted in conjunction with HDR Architecture, North America’s 2nd largest design firm, found that leading companies including Global, Arcadia and David Edward have eliminated flame retardant chemicals from their products, and other major companies including Herman Miller, Martin Brattrud and Haworth are in the process of eliminating these chemicals. Earlier this year CEH reached legal settlements with Playtex, West Elm and several other home furniture and/or children’s products companies who had been using flame retardants; several of the companies have now committed to eliminating these chemicals from their products.

The Center for Environmental Health has an eighteen-year track record of protecting children and families from harmful chemicals in our air, water, food and in dozens of every day products. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. In 2010, the San Francisco Business Times bestowed its annual “Green Champion” award to CEH for its work to improve health and the environment in the Bay Area and beyond.

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