Last week, the Joint Committee on Public Health of the Massachusetts legislature took swift and decisive action to protect the health of kids and firefighters by giving a favorable report to legislation to ban toxic flame retardants in children’s products, household furniture and other products.

S.1230/H.3500 An Act to protect children families and firefighters from toxic chemicals (The Children and Firefighters Protection Act) is sponsored by Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton) and Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge).  “Now that the bill has once again had a well-attended hearing, and been released favorably with no changes by the Joint Committee, we are ready to take this bill all the way to enactment,” said Senator Creem.  “We must protect the public, including children and firefighters, by banning these dangerous chemicals from products in our homes.”

In the previous legislative session, the bill was enacted by the legislature on January 1, 2019, however Governor Baker declined to sign the legislation—effectively vetoing it. This bill was among the first three reported out of the Committee this year.  The Committee made no changes to the language despite significant industry pressure to weaken the bill through exemptions for certain products or chemicals.

The bill would ban 11 toxic flame retardant chemicals in children’s products, household furniture, bedding, window coverings and carpeting. It would also give the Department of Environmental Protection the authority to ban additional flame retardant chemicals in those products if the chemicals pose a health threat.

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 an 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.

The Massachusetts Director of Clean Water Action, Elizabeth Saunders, said, “Thanks Chairman Mahoney, Chairwoman Comerford and the members of the Public Health Committee for recognizing that the time to act is now and for standing up for the health of kids and firefighters rather than giving in to industry’s insidious attempts to weaken protections for children and firefighters.  Thanks also to Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Spilka for their leadership in getting this bill passed in 2018, and of course to bill champions Representative Decker and Senator Creem and the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. We look forward to working with all to see that this bill become law this year so that we can truly protect those who are most vulnerable to the damage caused by toxic flame retardants.”

By Clean Water Action