The Massachusetts Senate has voted unanimously (38-0) to ban certain toxic chemical flame retardants from children’s products, including toys and nap mats, as well as in upholstered furniture, window dressings, carpeting, and bedding made or sold in the state.
Bill S2338, An Act to Protect Children, Families, and Firefighters from Harmful Flame Retardants, introduced by Senator Cindy Creem (Democrat – Newton), establishes an initial list of 11 chemical flame retardants that would be banned.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration, where similar legislation was filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker (Democrat – Cambridge).
The list is based on scientific research showing that exposure may lead to an increased risk of cancer, neurological issues, fertility problems, and other health concerns.
Manufacturers would be required to notify retailers about those home furnishings and children’s products containing the listed chemicals before the ban goes into effect.
“This bill will reduce everyone’s exposure to several dangerous chemicals. These flame retardants are added to foam and other products in the mistaken belief they will protect us in the case of a fire,” said Senator Creem, “Instead, they are harming us, and they pose extra health risks to firefighters because of the toxic smoke created during an actual fire.”
Foam products, including toys, are the most likely items to be treated with flame retardant chemicals. Over time, the chemicals can become dust disbursed through the home, and then inhaled or absorbed by children, pets, and other family members.
“Ridding these toxic chemicals from everyday products will go a long way to protecting everyone in Massachusetts, especially the most vulnerable among us and our firefighters,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I am glad the Senate is advancing this critical piece of public safety legislation.”
The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts support this legislation, and have raised special concerns because of the heightened health risks when products with chemical flame retardants are exposed to high heat and combustion.
“Thank you to State Senator Cindy Creem and State Representative Marjorie Decker, who have been our champions in the legislature on this issue from the beginning,” Rich MacKinnon, Jr., President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts said. “Firefighters are being diagnosed with cancer at an alarming rate; since this bill was first passed by the legislature nine months ago, three Massachusetts firefighters have died from cancer and dozens have been diagnosed. This law will be one more arsenal in our toolbox in protecting ourselves from harmful carcinogens. We’re thankful to Clean Water Action and all of the organizations that have been our partners on this issue and ask that the House pass the bill and Governor Baker sign this bill into law swiftly.”
Environmental groups including the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and the Silent Spring Institute also strongly support this legislation.
Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director of Clean Water Action, said, “This bill will go a long way toward protecting children, firefighters, and all who live in the Commonwealth from insidious and unnecessary toxic chemicals. There is no excuse for putting cancer causing chemicals in children’s products when fire safety can be achieved using safer materials.”
Chemical compounds used as flame retardants can change as chemists develop new formulas.
The Senate bill calls for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to update the list of prohibited chemicals by reviewing new flame retardants in consultation with the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell and other state agencies at least every three years.
Legislation banning these flame retardants was enacted at the end of 2018, but ultimately it did not become law.