Committee approves measure to protect children and firefighters from toxic chemicals

For Immediate Release: March 15, 2013

Montpelier, VT – The Senate Health & Welfare Committee voted (4-0) on Friday morning to pass S.81, a bill that protects families and firefighters from toxic and unnecessary flame retardant chemicals.

“VPIRG applauds the Health & Welfare Committee for this decisive vote in favor of public health,” said Lauren Hierl, environmental health advocate at VPIRG. “Chlorinated Tris, one of the target chemicals in the bill, was actually banned from children’s pajamas in the 1970s because it’s such a potent cancer-causer.  It’s hard to believe that we’re still having to fight – 35 years later – to remove this toxic chemical from nursing pillows, home furniture and other commonly used consumer products.”

Furniture and numerous baby products have high quantities of flame retardant chemicals like chlorinated Tris, which leach into the air and dust in our homes and into our bodies. These chemicals are linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, reproductive harm, and other negative health impacts. Children can have particularly high levels of these chemicals of their bodies. Further, studies show that these chemicals don’t actually protect us from fires, and can actually make fires more dangerous for firefighters.

An investigative series by the Chicago Tribune published in May told the outrageous history of the flame retardant chemical industry, and brought national attention to this issue. The investigation revealed Big Tobacco’s role in promoting these chemicals, how firefighter organizations were infiltrated, and how key science on fire safety was blatantly distorted.

“With this strong committee vote, and a coalition of parents, consumer advocates and professional firefighters behind the bill, I’m optimistic we can get this passed by the full Senate soon,” Hierl added.  “But we know the chemical industry is working hard to weaken or defeat this legislation. In the end, senators will have to weigh the interests of public health against the profits of the chemical industry.  I think they’ll do the right thing.”

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