Charlie Baker Vetoes Bill to Protect Kids and Firefighters from Toxic Flame Retardants

Supporters criticize the Governor; vow to return it to his desk in new legislative session.

BOSTON—Today environmental, public health and worker advocates blasted Governor Charlie Baker for running out the clock on a much watched bill to protect children and firefighters from exposure to toxic flame retardants. Baker’s failure to sign the bill amounts to an automatic veto.

H.5024 An Act to protect children, families and firefighters from harmful flame retardants, sponsored by Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) and Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton), would ban 11 toxic flame retardant chemicals in children’s products, household furniture, mattresses and bedding, curtains and blinds, and carpeting. It was enacted by the legislature in its final act of the 2017-2018 legislative session on New Year’s Day and had to be signed by Baker by midnight on Friday in order to become law.

Quotes from supporters of the Children and Firefighters Protection Act:

“It is outrageous that when given the option, Baker chose to stand with industry lobbyists instead of firefighters and families,” said Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director for Clean Water Action and coordinator of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow. “The chemical industry has lied up, down and sideways about what this bill will do to fire safety and to products sold in Massachusetts, and the Governor bought the lies, hook, line and sinker. This fight is not over – we will work with the legislature to make sure that this becomes law before another 2 year session is over.”

“By vetoing H 5024, a bill to ban certain toxic flame retardants, the Governor has vetoed the wishes of the firefighters of Massachusetts, the MA chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians, and dozens of health and environmental organizations who have been pushing this bill for years. It is not a proud day in the Commonwealth,” said Janet Domenitz of MASSPIRG.

“We are incredibly disappointed that the Governor has decided to side with the chemical industry over the firefighters who risk their lives every day to keep the Commonwealth’s communities safe,” said Jodi Sugerman-Brozan Executive Director of MassCOSH. “We remain committed to doing all we can to reduce their exposure to dangerous carcinogens and toxic chemicals. This fight is not over yet.”

“I am so disappointed by the Governor’s pocket veto of this legislation, which was enacted unanimously in the Senate last June,” said Senator Creem. “It will only increase our efforts now, working with Rep. Decker, my Senate colleagues, the firefighters, environmental advocates and the public to make this the law.”

“I am deeply disappointed that Governor Baker has chosen not to sign the flame retardants bill into law,” said Decker. He had the choice to stand with our firefighters who risk their lives every day so that we can be safe. Firefighters, children, and mothers should not be placed in harm’s way because many of our household goods and furniture are manufactured with toxic chemicals that we know are ineffective at curbing fire deaths. But this fight is not over, and we will be back this session to start this over.”

“Scientific evidence shows that the use of flame retardants in furnishings needlessly exposes the public to toxic chemicals, and that children and firefighters especially vulnerable,” said Kathryn Rodgers, Staff Scientist at the Silent Spring Institute.

“Today is a disappointing day for Massachusetts residents looking for protection of their health,” said Cheryl Osimo, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition. “By not signing bill H.5024 Gov. Baker has put off taking an important action that will have an impact on the health of future generations.”

“We are extremely disappointed that Governor Baker has decided to prioritize the concerns of chemical companies over parents and firefighters today. We thank Senator Creem and Representative Decker, and we hope to see this legislation arrive back on the Governor’s desk in short order during the new session,” said Elizabeth Henry, President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.

“By not signing this bill, Governor Baker is revealing an incongruency with the priorities of his own constituents,” said Kristi Marsh, Founder of Savvy Women’s Alliance. Massachusetts is part of a growing movement to protect our health – from families to first responders, from nonprofits to businesses. We will continue to educate, but it is disappointing as 12 other states are already are actively protecting through leadership.

Background:

The Children and Firefighters Protection Act was first filed in 2013 by Senator Creem and 2015 by Representative Decker. The Senate version passed the Senate unanimously in 2016 (but was not brought up by the House before that session ended) and again in May, 2018. The House passed the bill on Friday, December 28th, 2018 and it was finally enacted on January 1st, 2019.

Toxic flame retardants are not needed to meet modern flammability standards. However, they are often added to highchairs, car seats, nursing pads, furniture, carpet pads, electronic equipment (including toys), and many more common household products. These chemicals do not stay in the products; they get out into the dust in our homes and the air that we breathe, and ultimately into our bodies. Children’s developing bodies are much more vulnerable to the health risks associated with flame retardants than adults. Their tendency to touch their faces and mouths add to the danger and put them at even greater risk.

Worse yet, firefighters are exposed to flame retardants when they go into burning buildings. Studies have shown that these flame retardants are linked to cancer, nervous system damage, decreased fertility, and other health problems. Firefighters, public health organizations, parent groups, environmental advocates, and others have been pushing for years to ban them.

Fortunately, there are ways to make these products more fire safe and less toxic, such as using less flammable materials and tighter weaves in fabric. Many companies are already doing so.

Had Governor Baker signed this bill, Massachusetts would have joined 12 other states plus Washington D.C. that have already banned one or more toxic flame retardants. Most recently, the state of California banned 4 large categories of toxic flame retardants in children’s products, household furniture and infant and toddler mattresses in a bill signed by Governor Jerry Brown in October.

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The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow is a coalition of public health, labor, environmental, civic, science and health care organizations in Massachusetts working to prevent harm to human health and the environment from toxic chemicals. www.healthytomorrow.org.