BOSTON >> With support from consumer groups, firefighters and environmentalists, the Massachusetts Senate on Thursday passed legislation to ban certain chemical flame retardants from children's products, upholstered furniture, window dressings, carpeting and bedding made or sold in the state.
The bill (S 2293), sponsored by Newton Sen. Cynthia Creem, establishes an initial list of 11 chemical flame retardants that would be subject to the ban and requires manufacturers to notify retailers of the products that contain these chemicals before the ban goes into effect.
"Generally products that contain foam, like furniture cushions, are the most likely to be treated with these chemicals, which then become diffused through our homes as dust inhaled or absorbed through our skin or on our food," Creem said on the Senate floor. "They accumulate in our bodies and have been linked to many illnesses."
The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously and now heads to the House, had support from the state's firefighters, who have raised concern that the chemical flame retardants pose serious health risks when they are exposed to high heat and combustion.
"The value of flame retardants is certainly doubtful and given the extremely high cancer rates of firefighters the more toxic chemicals we can get out of our environment the less exposure we will have," Ed Kelly, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, said in a statement.
Environmental groups, too, supported the bill. Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director of Clean Water Action, said the bill "is not a choice between public safety and public health; rather it is a choice to achieve public safety in the way that provides the highest protection to our most vulnerable."
Acknowledging that the chemical compounds used as flame retardants can change as chemists develop new formulas, the Senate bill calls for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, with consultation from the state's Toxics Use Reduction Institute and the Science Advisory Board, to identify newly-developed chemicals and promulgate new rules on the chemicals within nine months of identification. The full prohibited chemical list would be updated every three years.
"This bill protects public health, the environment, and first responders by reducing unnecessary harmful chemicals in everyday household items," Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said in a statement. "Limiting exposure of these chemicals by children reduces the potential harmful illnesses and disorders that these chemicals have been linked to."