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Californians for Toxic Free Fire Safety's Response to Governor Brown's Announcement on Toxic Flame Retardants

June 19, 2012

We applaud Governor Brown’s announcement to modernize California’s flammability standards and reduce the use of toxic chemicals marketed as flame retardants. Studies show these chemicals have been ineffective at stopping furniture fires and they threaten human health. Flame retardants have been linked to lower IQ, autism, infertility, and cancer – all serious health conditions that are on the rise. These chemicals are now found in the bodies of nearly all North Americans, with Californians and California children having the highest levels. Firefighters, who are exposed to an increase in toxic gases when products containing flame retardants burn, have significantly elevated rates of cancer, including multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate and testicular cancer, malignant melanoma and brain cancer.

Since the Chicago Tribune’s May 2012 publication of the searing four-part series on the flame retardant chemical industry, national and international attention has been drawn to California’s rule called Technical Bulletin 117 (TB 117). This rule is a virtual mandate for adding chemicals to foam for furniture and baby products manufactured throughout North America. The investigative series illustrates the deceptive tactics the chemical industry has used to keep their toxic products on the market and their close ties to the tobacco industry.

We look forward to partnering with Governor Brown and the Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation to fix this burning problem for the state of California.

Statements from Individual Groups

The news came as the state legislature is planning a Hearing June 26th, to examine toxic flame retardants and fire safety in regards to TB 117, an obsolete California regulation that, de facto, puts flame retardant chemicals into foam for furniture and other items for sale in California. As  studies show these chemicals don't stop fires, can make fires more deadly, and lead to serious health effects, this Hearing is critical for our state.” explains Ana Mascareñas from Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles, and coordinator for Californians for Toxic-Free Fire Safety.

Arlene Blum, PhD, with Green Science Policy Institute, explains,”Legislators called for a Hearing on the heels of a Chicago Tribune investigation that revealed deception from chemical industry in testimony in front of California and other state legislatures in the past regarding flame retardants and the science for health impacts. Now we scientists will be able to address the Legislators with important modern studies showing health hazards and how ineffective TB 117 is for fire safety.”

Sarah Janssen, MD, PhD, MPH, with Natural Resources Defense Council and University of California, School of Medicine says, “Research links many of these flame retardant chemicals to lower IQs and hyperactivity in children, and also to reproductive problems and endocrine disruption. The entire world is watching California to see if we will act to prevent continuing global contamination from chemicals used to meet TB 117.”

“Governor Brown’s move to direct state agencies to revise California’s flammability standard shows he recognizes the dangers posed by toxic chemicals used as fire retardants,” said Victoria Rome, deputy director of California advocacy for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “A revised flammability standard can ensure fire safety and promote healthy homes.”

Richard Holober, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California, said:  “We are pleased to hear that the Brown Administration is taking action to replace this antiquated regulation with a new standard that will prevent the spread of home fires without the use of harmful chemicals."

“As the Governor has acknowledged, numerous studies show that firefighters face significantly elevated risk of developing many different types of cancer, risks related to the chemical exposures they face every day on the job,” said Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters. “The combustion by-products created by fires involving flame retardants turn these toxic mixtures even more deadly.”

“Our families deserve better than lies from the chemical industry,” said Sarah Rose, CEO California League of Conservation Voters. “We applaud Governor Brown for recognizing that it is time for California to take the lead, as our state does on so many important environmental health and safety issues, and update this dangerous and outdated flammability standard that puts our children and our environment at risk.”

"We are literally polluting the entire world with our four-decade old guidelines," said Renee Sharp, senior scientist and director of Environmental Working Group's California office. "Contrary to industry's talking points, toxic flame retardants do not increase protection against fire dangers but taint our bodies and those of our children with chemicals linked to infertility, cancer and behavioral changes."

“We are extraordinarily pleased that Governor Brown has announced a plan to revise  California’s antiquated TB 117 standard.  We need to ensure that California’s new furniture flammability standard is aligned with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s draft standard that offers greater fire safety benefits without the use of toxic chemicals.  The public will have to be vigilant to make sure that the chemical industry does not try to corrupt the hearings and public comment period with their  misleading and inaccurate testimony.”  Judy Levin, Pollution Prevention Director, Center for Environmental Health.

“The Governor’s action to reduce toxic flame retardants is a key step in a long journey to reduce our exposure to toxic chemicals. We applaud the Governor for putting the health and safety of Californian’s first.” Daniel Jacobson. Legislative Director for Environment California.

"Governor Brown today took the first step towards ending a toxic nightmare that has caused the contamination of humans, animals, and marine species around the globe. He continues to demonstrate the vision and leadership that we have counted on for decades, and is to be roundly applauded" Russell Long, board member, Friends of the Earth.

"The Governor's announcement has world-wide implications because the problem with flame retardant chemicals isn't isolated to our living rooms. These chemicals travel readily through the environment and have been found in the water and tissues of living things as far away as the Arctic. Eradicating these chemicals is important for the planet," says Andria Ventura, Toxics Program Manager, Clean Water Action.


Californians for Toxic Free Fire Safety