By Bob Katzen
Governor Baker did not sign a bill 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. He was unable to propose any amendments to it because the 2017-2018 session ended on January 1st and the Legislature would not be able to act on the amendments.
“I will continue to stand with families and first responders in our state and will be refiling this bill next session,” said Senate co-sponsor of the measure Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton).
The bill 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.
In his message to the Legislature, Baker said that he supports the elimination of flame-retardant chemicals from various household and children’s products when those chemicals are unnecessary and toxic but cannot sign the bill in its current form. “Had this bill been presented to me while the Legislature was still in session, I would have returned it with an amendment to address [my] concerns,” Baker said. “Unfortunately, because the Legislature has adjourned, I do not have that option.”
“This bill would make Massachusetts the only state in the United States to ban certain flame retardants in car seats and the non-foam parts of adult mattresses, products already subject to federal flammability requirement,” continued Baker. “In addition, this ban would go into effect in less than five months, cutting the lead time for manufacturers by more than half as compared to the full year provided in the legislation as originally filed. The resulting disruption to what is available to consumers in Massachusetts would likely have a disproportionate impact on families with lower incomes who are less able to afford more expensive alternatives.”
“Gov. Baker has chosen to stand on the side of the trade industries and not with the thousands of firefighters, children and mothers who are at risk every day of cancer,” said the bill’s House sponsor Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge).
Today Massachusetts had the opportunity to make our homes safer for children, firefighters and families by taking the simple step of banning toxic flame retardants from certain home products,” said Senate co-sponsor of the bill Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton). “However, because [the governor] vetoed this important bill, firefighters and children continue to remain at risk for cancer and other health problems caused by these harmful chemicals.”
Industry opponents of the bill include the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, the American Chemistry Council, International Sleep Products Association, the American Home Furnishings Alliance and Boston Bed Company.
They say that some of the banned chemicals can be used safely and that prohibiting them is not necessary and would drive up costs for consumers who would have to buy more expensive alternative products. They note it would also hurt Massachusetts businesses.
The industry lobbied heavily to defeat the bill. They argued that flame retardants are still an effective tool to combat fire risk. “We understand and support preventing exposure to dangerous chemicals; however [the bill] goes too far and could endanger children’s lives,” wrote Kelly Mariotti, executive director of Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.