Historic Toxic Chemical Ban Passes California Legislature

Immediate Release: August 29, 2018  

Contacts:

Alvaro Casanova, Center for Environmental Health, 805.427.5969 or alvaro@ceh.org

Carroll Wills, California Professional Firefighters, 916.921.9111 or cwills@cpf.org

Kari Birdseye, Natural Resources Defense Council, 415.875.8243 or kbirdseye@nrdc.org

Sacramento, CA – The California Legislature passed a landmark bill tonight that would protect the health of consumers, workers, families, firefighters, and our natural environment by prohibiting the sale of upholstered furniture, certain children’s products, and mattress foam that contain toxic flame retardants.

For decades, flame retardants have been needlessly used in everything from furniture to children’s products. These toxic chemicals — which have been linked to cancer, thyroid disruption, memory and learning problems, delayed mental and physical development, lower IQ, advanced puberty, hormone disruption and reduced fertility — migrate into household dust that is then ingested and inhaled by humans, pets and wildlife. As a result, they are now ubiquitous in households and workplaces and have steadily built up in the environment and human bodies.

Children are particularly vulnerable to these toxic chemicals because their brains and reproductive organs are still developing, and they come into greater contact with household dust than adults due to their frequent floor play and putting their hands to their mouths. Further, as flame retardants burn, the fire and smoke that firefighters are exposed to becomes more toxic — linked to disproportionately high levels of cancer among those whose job it is to protect us.

“Today’s vote to ban products with unnecessary flame retardants represents a landmark public health victory that will serve as a model for the nation to follow,” said Alvaro Casanova, California policy manager of Center for Environmental Health (CEH). “California is sending a clear message: Peoples’ health and science should determine public policy not chemical industry profits.”

“Flame-retardant chemicals offer little added fire safety benefit, but exposure to smoke that carries these toxins increases the already-substantial risk our firefighters face from job-related cancer,” said Brian K. Rice, president of California Professional Firefighters (CPF). “The passage of AB 2998 is a major step forward, not only for the safety of our first responders, but for the health of those we protect.”

“California is taking a big step forward to protect firefighters and kids,” said Avinash Kar, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “This bill ends unnecessary exposure to toxic flame retardant chemicals in many household products. The chemicals do not make these products any safer—and it is time to get rid of them.”

In addition to being toxic, flame retardants are unnecessary in these products. According to studies by California’s Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (BEARHFTI), the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Fire Protection Association, these chemicals provide no meaningful fire safety benefit in furniture or children’s products.

AB 2998 (D-Bloom) was sponsored by CEH, CPF, and NRDC. The bill passed the Senate floor with bipartisan support by a vote of 29 to 9 on Monday, and the Assembly by a vote of 52-12. It now awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

There are already many green and healthy alternatives without unnecessary flame retardant chemicals available on the market. AB 2998 represents a historic opportunity to ensure that communities across California are protected from these dangerous chemicals while helping spur a nationwide transition toward safer, more sustainable, cost-effective products.

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