Governor Jerry Brown signed a historic bill today that will protect the health of consumers, workers, families, firefighters, and the environment by phasing out harmful flame-retardant chemicals in upholstered furniture, children’s products, and some mattresses. Given the size of California’s market, this law is expected to push companies to make products safer for the entire nation.
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 our households and workplaces and have steadily built up in the environment and in human bodies.
“Governor Brown has cemented his legacy of protecting Californians from toxic flame retardants today,” said Center for Environmental Health’s (CEH) Alvaro Casanova. “This new law represents a landmark victory for public health and a testament to what is possible when lawmakers follow sound science over chemical industry propaganda.”
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 because they crawl, play on the floor and furniture, and put their toys and hands in their mouths. Further, as flame retardants burn, the fire and smoke that firefighters are exposed to becomes more toxic, which has been linked to higher risks of cancer among our first responders.
For decades, the chemical industry has pushed the notion that flame-retardant chemicals are essential for stopping household fires. Yet, fire safety experts, including 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, have found that flame retardants in these products are not necessary to protect against real-world fires.
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