Ban on Toxic Flame Retardants Moves Another Step Closer to Final Passage

For Immediate Release:   May 3, 2013

Montpelier, VT – After a long week of late night debates and close votes, the House Human Services Committee came together across party lines to approve a bill that bans toxic and ineffective flame retardant chemicals from children’s products and home furniture (S.81, vote: 10-0-1). The bill will be considered by the full House of Representatives next week.

“Protecting our children by taking toxic chemicals out of products like high chairs and nursing pillows simply isn’t a partisan issue,” said Lauren Hierl, environmental health advocate at VPIRG. “This bill is the latest in a long list of toxic chemical bills VPIRG has supported, and the momentum on this issue in Montpelier grows every year.”

“The Human Services committee’s unanimous endorsement of the nation’s strongest ban on toxic flame retardant chemicals sends a clear message: it’s time to stop using dangerous chemicals in the products we use every day,” said VPIRG’s Hierl. “This bill would protect Vermonters – particularly our children and firefighters – from unnecessary and harmful chemicals. We look forward to working with the full House of Representatives to get this legislation passed and onto the Governor’s desk.”

Flame retardant chemicals targeted in this bill, particularly chlorinated Tris (Tris), are widely used in children’s products – high chairs, car seats, nursing pillows, changing pads, and more – and recent studies found Tris in the majority of couches on the market today. These chemicals migrate out of these products into air and dust, and from there get into our bodies. Once we’re exposed to these chemicals, they’re linked to cancer, neurological impacts such as lowered IQ, reproductive harm such as decreased fertility, and more. Especially concerning are the high levels found in toddlers and infants, whose developing bodies are particularly susceptible to these negative health impacts.

Further, studies show that these chemicals don’t work to slow the spread of fires, and actually make fires more dangerous for fire fighters by releasing toxic gases when ignited.

Ben O’Brien, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont, stated: “It’s important that we protect the health and safety of the public that we serve and fire fighters across Vermont by banning harmful and toxic flame retardants. We look forward to working with the full Vermont House of Representatives to remove all toxic flame retardants from all products in Vermont.”

An award-winning investigative series by the Chicago Tribune detailed the alarming history of how these ineffective and toxic flame retardants became so ubiquitous in consumer products. The investigation revealed tactics used by the chemical industry in the past decades to promote these chemicals, including blatant distortion of fire safety science, fake citizen front groups, and more.

“Vermont legislators continue to show leadership in protecting our citizens from toxic chemicals. We thank Representatives Jill Krowinski, Ann Pugh, and the other members of the House Human Services committee for their work on this important public health issue. With unanimous votes out of this House committee and the full Senate, we’re optimistic the Vermont House will pass this toxic flame retardant ban, allowing us to put in place the most protective bill in the country,” Hierl added.

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