By Cherie Ching, Advocacy Fellow
Today, the Massachusetts Senate Bill S.1132– “An Act to protect children and families from harmful flame retardants” was scheduled for a hearing at 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM in the Joint Committee on Public Health. This bill will initiate the phase out of flame retardants in children’s products and residential furniture, many common household items that the average person does not take into account as dangerous or toxic. For example, included in Bill S.1132 are Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), which are used widely as flame retardants in many consumer products, including mattresses, furniture foam, consumer electronics, wire insulation, draperies and upholstery. “Studies have shown that PBDEs accumulate in the environment and living organisms. These compounds have also been associated with liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity, and neurodevelopmental toxicity in humans.” (National Conference of State Legislatures in Feb 2015).
The purpose of flame retardants (compounds added to manufactured materials) is to inhibit, suppress, or delay the production of flames to prevent the spread of fire, and have been argued, instead to be useless during an actual fire. In fact, the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts have asserted that the flame retardants actually create more danger than good to children and families during a fire because they are exposed to these chemicals, either being inhaled or absorbed through skin contact, which could lead to increased risk for cancer and other health problems.
Several state legislative activities, including those in Massachusetts have focused on three types of PBDEs: pentaBDE, octaBDE and decaBDE.
This year both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate have advanced Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Reform bills. The Senate Bill, S.697, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, was introduced by Senators Udall (NM) and Vitter (LA) in March, gained committee approval in April, and is expected to go for final vote at the end of this month. The House Bill, TSCA Modernization Act (TMA-DD / HR 2576), was introduced by Congressman Shimkus (IL) and passed the House at the end of July.
Find out more information on our Advocacy Page- Healthy Materials and Toxics and stay tuned for more bill updates!