California poised to enact historic flame retardant labeling law

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A statement by Breast Cancer Fund Director of Program and Policy Janet Nudelman

You have a right to know whether or not toxic flame retardants are in a couch you’re thinking about buying. And fortunately, people in the state of California may soon be equipped with that knowledge because of the passage of a bill in the assembly and senate this week.

Sen. Mark Leno’s bill, which next heads to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, requires disclosure of the use or absence of flame retardant chemicals on furniture labels. The Breast Cancer Fund has testified in favor of the bill in Sacramento and applauds Sen. Leno’s ongoing commitment to this issue in the face of unrelenting opposition from the chemical industry.

During the past several years there has been growing public outcry about flame retardants, which are ineffective at preventing fires and are linked to cancer, decreased fertility, hormone disruption, lower IQ, hyperactivity and other health concerns. A stunning investigative series in the Chicago Tribune, uncovered the devious industry tactics that propelled huge quantities of toxic flame retardant chemicals into American homes, and set the stage for a widely acclaimed HBO documentary Toxic Hot Seat.

As a result, several state legislatures have banned flame retardants in furniture. In March, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration issued new rules requiring the evaluation of the safety of the flame retardant TDCPP (chlorinated Tris) and its alternatives used in children’s sleep products sold in the state. That followed a decision by Gov. Brown in 2013 to overturn Calif.’s TB 117, which required the use of toxic flame retardants in furniture. All of this progress has come in spite of years of efforts by the chemical industry to thwart any regulation of its multi-billion dollar flame retardant business.

In addition to children and families, it’s important to keep in mind other populations deeply impacted by these ubiquitous chemicals such as firefighters. When flame retardants burn, they produce extremely hazardous smoke. And as firefighters across the country face higher than average rates of cancer it’s imperative for us to remember the occupational hazards associated with these concerning chemicals.

We implore Governor Brown to sign this important bill into law: It will not only give Californians the information they need to avoid toxic ingredients in their furniture, but will also compel manufacturers to stop including these useless chemicals in the first place.

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