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Why Massachusetts should ban toxic flame retardants

Posted on Jul 18, 2016
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Infographic_FR_07.14.16b wPFFM logoToxic flame retardants are in our children’s products and furniture and get into children’s and adults’ bodies:


Toxic flame retardants are added to highchairs, car seats, nursing pillows, couches, carpet pads, electronic equipment (including toys), and other common household products.
These chemicals don't stay put - they get out of the products and into the dust in our homes, and also into our bodies.

Toxic flame retardant chemicals are found in breast milk, adults’, children’s and newborn babies’ blood, fish, and marine mammals. Blood levels of certain widely used flame retardants doubled in adults every two to five years between 1970 and 2004.[1]

A typical American baby is born with the highest recorded concentrations of flame retardants among infants in the world.[2]


Flame retardants are harmful to our health:
Flame retardant chemicals have been linked to cancer, learning disabilities, nervous system damage, infertility, obesity, thyroid problems and other serious health problems.

Some are highly persistent and build up in our bodies and the food chain

Firefighters are exposed in fires and have higher rates of cancer
In fires, flame retardants burn and turn into toxic fumes, exposing firefighters, who have 60-136% more flame retardants in their bodies than the average US adult male.[3]

The results of this exposure are serious: Boston firefighters have 2.5 X the rate of cancer of other Boston residents. Every 3 weeks a Boston firefighter is diagnosed with cancer. In fact 20 Boston firefighters every year develop cancer.[4]

Flame retardants are not needed to stop fires.
Furniture and foam products can be made to be safe using less flammable materials (such as cotton, wool and polyester) and construction (such as adding barriers between the fabric and foam.

Ashley Furniture, Crate & Barrel, Lay-Z-Boy, Macy’s, Pier 1 and many other manufacturers and retailers have already stopped making and selling furniture with flame retardants.

The toxic treadmill
Whack a mole: When one chemical is phased out it is often replaced with another equally toxic chemical.

For example, Chlorinated Tris was banned from children’s pajamas in the 1970s because of it’s links to cancer. When some toxic flame retardants started to be banned in household furniture, Chlorinated tris started to show up.

Globally, flame retardants are a four billion pound, five billion dollar annual industry. In the United States, companies have reported production and import of more than 450 million pounds of flame retardants. More than half of that volume is used in plastics of various kinds, including polyurethane foam. The most widely used classes are the brominated, chlorinated, phosphorus, and metal hydroxide flame retardants.[5]

What you can do:
S. 2302, An Act to protect children, firefighters and families from harmful flame retardants, was passed unanimously by the Massachusetts Senate in May. The House now has until July 31st to pass this bill (or the nearly identical H.4241) into law. Write to your state Representative today and tell them to finish the job. 

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[1] http://www.chicagotribune.com/ct-met-flame-retardants-20120506-story.html
[2] ibid
[3] Shaw, S.; Berger, M.; Harris, J.; Yun, S.; Wu, Q.; Liao, C.; Blum, A.; Stefani, A.; Kannan, K., Persistent organic pollutants including polychlorinated and polybrominated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans in firefighters from Northern California. Chemosphere 2013, 91, 1386-1394.
[4] Dr. Michael Hamrock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOvBypsaHog
[5] Chemical Data Reporting; http://epa.gov/cdr