Toxic Flame Retardants Get Sacramento Scrutiny

A measure to protect California consumers, children, and firefighters from toxic flame retardant chemicals passed out of its second Senate policy committee late Monday evening. AB 2998, introduced by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), passed the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee on a 7-2 vote, a week after it passed the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. The measure prohibits the sale of juvenile products, mattresses, and upholstered or reupholstered furniture in California that contain unnecessary toxic flame retardant chemicals.

“Every day, Californians are needlessly exposed to toxic flame retardant chemicals that accumulate in our bodies and migrate into the environment,” said Assemblymember Bloom. “AB 2998 moves us one step closer to eliminating these chemicals from our homes.”

Flame retardant chemicals have long been added to a variety of household products to meet now-defunct flammability standards. Today, these chemicals are ubiquitous in American households and have steadily built up in human bodies and in the environment. As a result, Americans have higher levels of these chemicals in their bodies than populations in many other developed countries.

Among the general public, children and firefighters have particularly high exposure risks. Infants are exposed to these chemicals at higher levels than adults, often coming into contact with them in dust or through breast milk. Studies have linked these chemicals to lower birth weight, reduced IQ, and impaired neurological development in children. Additionally, when flame retardant chemicals burn, they convert into dioxins and furans: toxic substances known to cause cancer. Firefighters inhale these chemicals in the process of fighting fires and over the past several decades, cancer rates have increased among firefighters in part due to the presence of these chemicals.

AB 2998 prohibits the sale of specific products – juvenile products, mattresses, and upholstered or reupholstered furniture in California – that contain toxic flame retardant chemicals. All of the products identified in the bill either have no flammability standard or a standard that can easily be met without the use of flame retardant chemicals.

In fact, much of the industry in all three segments, has moved away from the use of flame retardant chemicals, in part due labeling requirements and increased public awareness about their dangers. However, disclosure requirements have been insufficient to fully eliminate these chemicals and legislation is needed to protect all Californians from these chemicals.

“We have come a long way since the creation of California’s original flammability standard over forty years ago. We know now that flame retardants are both unnecessary and toxic; it’s time to phase them out for good.”

AB 2998 now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Nardos Girma 

The Actors' Gang

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