BAN TOXIC FLAME RETARDANTS

By Bob Katzen

The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker 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 December 1, 2021. Another provision requires the Department of Environmental Protection to review, at least every three years, chemical flame retardants used in these type of products and include them on the list of prohibited chemical flame retardants that are documented to pose a health risk. Violators would be fined up to $5,000 for a first offense, $25,000 for a second offense and up to $50,000 for a third and subsequent offense.

Motor vehicles, watercraft, aircraft, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles and electronic devices would be exempt from this law as are any previously owned products that contain a retardant.

The House and Senate approved a similar bill at the end of the 2018 legislative session, but Gov. Baker did not sign it. “Massachusetts can be a leader in this area, but the specifics of the bill that emerged during the last hours of the legislative session limit its potential effectiveness,” Baker wrote to legislators. “A deliberative process involving all stakeholders and an implementation schedule that takes into account the realities of manufacturing and distribution practices are key components to any legislation. I look forward to working with the bill sponsors and stakeholders on a revised form of this legislation in the [2019] session.”

Supporters say 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 argue 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. They note that firefighters are exposed to flame retardants when they go into burning buildings.

I believe that this is a simple and straightforward bill to get unnecessary toxic flame-retardant chemicals out of our homes,” said Senate lead sponsor Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton). “There is no reason for any more delay in protecting the health of our children, firefighters and even our pets.”

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