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Environmental connections to public health >>

CA bill would ban fire retardants from some baby products

Thursday, July 30, 2009

We're pleased to reprint this post by Jessica Webb of Healthy Child, Healthy World about this important bill. EWG has testified in the CA legislature to support it.

A current bill in the California State Legislature, SB 772, aims to prevent the use of highly toxic brominated and chlorinated fire retardant chemicals in widely used baby products such as cribs, high chairs, strollers, nursing pillows and infant carriers. The bill recently passed California Assembly's Business and Professions Committee by 7 to 2, due to the outspoken passion of its many parent advocates. This was a remarkable and laudable show of power by the citizen lobby and parents like yourself.

In response to California fire code regulation Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117), the use of halogenated flame retardants has increased drastically since the 1980's. The statewide regulation requires that baby products (made for ages 6 and under) resist flammability for at least 12 seconds when exposed to an open flame. Halogenated flame retardants are among the cheapest of their kind that satisfy this regulation and until recently, their presence in baby products has not only been encouraged by the state, but required in order to meet TB 117 standards.

However, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Bureau of Home Furnishings, little to no evidence suggests that these baby products actually present a serious fire threat. In addition, the National Fire Protection Association maintains that there is no credible evidence suggesting that flame retardants actually reduce the number of fire deaths in California. For instance, even though the rate of fire deaths decreased by 38% in California, the decrease was greater still in states that have no regulations such as those enforced by TB 117.

Serious public health concerns persist regarding the consequences of chemicals in flame retardants. Such chemicals are in the same family as those found to be present in children's sleepwear in the 1970's, and subsequently these chemicals were banned when they were found to extremely dangerous. Exposure to the chemicals has been linked to endocrine disruption, cancer, birth defects, neurological and developmental disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, thyroid disorder and many more health issues.

The primary chemicals used in the flame retardants can pass through the placenta and gather in human body fat and breast milk. As a result, exposure occurs preterm, during development, and through oral and physical contact with baby products. Consequently, toddlers have three times the amount of flame retardant chemicals in their bodies than do mothers. These chemicals leach from products and into dust, pets, and the home environment; an average home will acquire up to several pounds of these chemicals.

Despite the growing concern, the bromine industry and like-minded groups are pushing to actually increase the use of these chemicals in a vast range of manufactured goods. For example, to oppose SB 277, the industry has collaborated with neutral-sounding lobbying groups such as "Californians for Fire Safety" to argue that flame-retardants are saving lives.

In a stunningly shameful attempt to override the bill, bromine industries marched Asian burn victims and African American children from Inglewood Unified School District through the Capitol and urged them to beg the Assembly members to save children from fire death.

Supported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and by the Consumer Federation of California, SB 772 strives to modify Technical Bulletin 117 such that it will no longer enforce regulations that lead to baby products containing highly toxic chemicals. In addition, the bill also authorizes the Bureau of Home Furnishings provide modifications if it determines that any baby products pose a serious fire hazard.

For the future health of our children, it is our hope that California law makers hold strong in the fight to do away with toxic chemicals that continue to infest our households and families.

Want to learn more about flame retardants? See EWG's 2008 study about flame retardants in moms and their toddlers and check out our tips for reducing your exposure.

Thanks to Healthy Child, Healthy World,

[Also toValentinaPowers & Flickr for great content and a pic]

 

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