Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that the Senate recently voted to ban certain toxic chemical flame retardants from children’s products, including toys and nap mats, as well as in upholstered furniture, window dressings, carpeting, and bedding made or sold in the state.
The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously, establishes an initial list of eleven chemical flame retardants that would be banned. The list is based on scientific research showing that exposure may lead to an increased risk of cancer, neurological issues, fertility problems and other health concerns. Manufacturers would be required to notify retailers about those home furnishings and children’s products containing the listed chemicals before the ban goes into effect.
“This commonsense legislation offers safeguards to prevent exposure to hazardous chemicals,” said Senator Moore. “Spreading awareness about the harmful effects of these products, and removing them from store shelves will help to ensure the safety of our children and consumers across the Commonwealth. Nonproliferation of these harmful toxins will also help reduce health-related complications from exposure, and benefit the environment.”
Foam products, including toys, are the most likely items to be treated with flame retardant chemicals. Over time, the chemicals can become dust disbursed through the home, and then inhaled or absorbed by children, pets and other family members.
The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts support this legislation, and have raised special concerns because of the heightened health risks when products with chemical flame retardants are exposed to high heat and combustion.
Environmental groups, including the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and the Silent Spring Institute, also strongly support this legislation. Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director of Clean Water Action, said “This bill will go a long way toward protecting children, firefighters and all who live in the Commonwealth from insidious and unnecessary toxic chemicals. There is no excuse for putting cancer causing chemicals in children’s products when fire safety can be achieved using safer materials.”
Chemical compounds used as flame retardants can change as chemists develop new formulas. The Senate bill calls for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to update the list of prohibited chemicals by reviewing new flame retardants in consultation with the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell and other state agencies at least every three years.
Legislation banning these flame retardants was enacted at the end of 2018, but ultimately it did not become law. The bill, S.2338, now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.