By Bob Katzen
The House and Senate approved and sent to the governor legislation that would ban 11 toxic flame retardants from children’s products, bedding, carpeting and residential upholstered furniture sold or manufactured in Massachusetts, except for inventory already manufactured prior to January 1, 2019. Another provision requires the Department of Environmental Protection to review, at least every three years, chemical flame retardants used in these products and include them on the list of prohibited chemical flame retardants that are documented to pose a health risk.
Vehicles, watercraft and aircraft are exempt from this law as are any previously-owned product that contains a retardant. Violators would be fined up to $5,000 for a first offense and up to $50,000 for subsequent offenses.
Supporters explained that since 1975, manufacturers have added chemical flame retardants to a wide array of household items including products with polyurethane foam, such as sofas, car seats, strollers and nap mats. They are also incorporated into electronic products and building insulation.
They argued that the retardants, while well-intentioned, do more harm than good and have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, fertility problems, neurological disorders and other major health concerns.
“This law will protect the health of children and firefighters,” said bill co-sponsor Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge). “Working with Speaker DeLeo, my partners in the Senate, firefighters and so many advocates is exactly what democracy looks like–crafting laws that value people’s lives and highlighting the connection to our well-being and how we choose to use chemicals that can lead to our deaths instead of protecting us. I am honored to have been the voice of many as the House sponsor.”
“I am so proud that this important bill will reach the governor’s desk, and we can make 2019 the year we stop allowing the sale of products with unnecessary and harmful flame-retardant chemicals,” said Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton). “Working with Clean Water Action, the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, and many other advocates helped increase public awareness and get the bill passed.”