California consumers will soon have the power to make informed decisions about whether or not to buy furniture containing toxic and ineffective flame retardant chemicals. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed Senate Bill 1019, authored by Senator Mark Leno, which requires disclosure of the use or absence of flame retardant chemicals on existing furniture labels.
“This law will not only give Californians the information they need to avoid toxic ingredients in their furniture, but will also pressure manufacturers to stop including these useless chemicals in the first place,” said Nancy Buermeyer, senior policy strategist with the Breast Cancer Fund who lobbied in favor of the bill in Sacramento.
“Today’s action by the Governor is a huge victory for California consumers who have long demanded the right to know what chemicals are in the furniture they purchase for their homes and families,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco in a press statement. “While California, under the direction of Governor Brown, ruled last year that upholstered furniture can be manufactured without toxic flame retardant chemicals and still be equally fire safe, there has been no established method for communicating this to customers. SB 1019 provides consumers with this missing information so they can make informed decisions.”
In November 2013, Gov. Brown updated and modernized Calif.’s notorious TB 117, which required the use of toxic flame retardants in furniture. The new fire safety standard (TB 117-2013) allows furniture manufactures to produce high quality and fire-safe furniture without the use of these toxic chemicals. Furniture manufacturers use California’s flammability standards for products sold nationwide, which means that by changing the state’s standards Governor Brown is protecting people across the country from dangerous flame-retardant chemicals. 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.
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, which features Sen. Leno and includes an appearance by the Breast Cancer Fund.
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.
The Breast Cancer Fund thanks Gov. Brown for his ongoing commitment to public health and applauds Sen. Leno for his relentless dedication to this issue in the face of unrelenting opposition from the chemical industry. We also commend the organizational sponsors of this important bill: the California Professional Firefighters, Center for Environmental Health and Natural Resources Defense Council.