Vermont House Unanimously Passes Nation’s Strongest Ban on Cancer-Causing Flame Retardants

For Immediate Release:   May 8, 2013

Montpelier, VT —  In the jam-packed final days of the legislative session, the House of Representatives carved out time to pass the nation’’s strongest bill to protect children and fire fighters from unnecessary and harmful flame retardant chemicals (S.81, vote:141-0) by banning their use in children’s products and home furniture.

Unlike some bills this session that drummed up intense debate but only affect a small portion of Vermonters, the country’’s strongest bill to ban toxic flame retardants passed through the House today with little controversy, but with far-reaching impacts,” said Lauren Hierl, environmental health advocate at VPIRG. “Everyone with a couch or kid’s product in their home should be thankful the House voted today to stop the chemical industry from dumping toxic and ineffective flame retardant chemicals into these products in the future.”

Representative Jill Krowinski added, “”This is another great step forward in protecting the health of our communities, especially our children and fire fighters. We still have a lot of work to do to remove all of the toxic chemicals In our products and homes, but this is a public health victory.”

““I consider today’’s unanimous vote to ban toxic flame retardants as a positive step, but we can’’t stop here. The legislature needs to enact comprehensive chemical safety legislation in the near future,”” said House Majority Leader Willem Jewett.

Benjamin O’Brien, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont, added, ““It was an honor working with the members of the Senate Health and Welfare and the House Human Services Committees, in coordination with VPIRG, to make Vermont a safer place for its citizens and firefighters by ridding the state of these harmful chemicals.””

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 enter our bodies.

Human exposure to these chemicals has been linked to cancer, lowered IQ, decreased fertility, and more.  Especially concerning are the high levels of the toxins 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.

“We thank Representatives Jill Krowinski, Willem Jewett, Ann Pugh, and the other members of the House who helped shepherd this bill through to unanimous passage in the House. This is an important bill to protect Vermonters from one class of toxins, and the next logical step is to pass broader reforms to systematically tackle how Vermont deals with toxic chemicals in products we all use every day,” Hierl added.

S.81 now heads back to the Senate, which is expected to concur with the House-passed amendments.

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