State Senate Votes to Ban Toxic Flame Retardants from Children’s Furniture

For Immediate Release

Consumer Federation of California
Contact: 

Richard Holober, CFC, (650) 375-7840

State Senate Votes to Ban Toxic Flame Retardants from Children’s Furniture

SACRAMENTO - A coalition of concerned
mothers, firefighters, environmentalists, public health experts and consumer
groups are one step closer to winning a landmark victory for children’s
health with the State Senate’s approval last evening of SB 772 (Leno). The
bill would ban the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals in juvenile furniture
used by children age six or younger. The bill passed on the final Senate floor
vote for all bills originating in the Senate this year. Chemical manufacturers spent
over three million dollars to kill a similar toxic furniture ban in 2007.

“SB 772 exempts juvenile products including strollers, cribs and
car seats, which the federal government has determined to be of no fire risk,
from an outdated and unnecessary state law that requires them to be treated
with toxic fire retardants,” said Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).
“These chemicals have been linked to a host of health disorders such as cancer
and thyroid disease, making it critical that we give manufacturers a green
light to stop adding these toxic chemicals into products that infants and
children come into repeated and intimate contact with every day.”

A recent study found that the dust in California homes had 4 to 10 times higher
levels of these chemicals, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBEs) than other states, and 200 times higher level
compared to homes in the European Union. Other studies have found elevated PDBE
levels in the breast milk of nursing mothers, and unusually high levels in the
blood of infants and babies.

“The Senate agreed with a very simple principle: chemical
industry profits shouldn’t outweigh the health and safety of children,”
said Richard Holober, Executive
Director of the Consumer Federation of California.

Fire retardant chemicals migrate from furniture into the dust our homes and from there into our bodies. Children
ingest these chemicals by chewing or sucking on bassinets, cribs and furniture.
These brominated and chlorinated chemicals are related to TRIS, a fire
retardant once used in children’s pajamas which was banned by federal authorities
in 1977 as a carcinogen. These toxins are associated with cancer, birth
defects, thyroid disruption, hearing deficits, learning disorders and mental
retardation.

Data shows that states that don’t have a toxic furniture
requirement have seen a more rapid decline in fire-related deaths, and that advancements
in fire safety measures in recent decades - including smoke alarm ordinances
and mandating fire safe cigarettes that extinguish instead of smoldering - have
significantly reduced incidence of home fire fatalities. A recent report by the
U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission couldn’t find a single incident of
death caused by children’s furniture that burned. 

Chemical manufacturer lobbyists worked until the last minute to kill SB
772. In a dramatic final Senate vote, five Republicans joined eighteen
Democrats in voting Aye. Ten Republicans and six Democrats voted No, or abstained,
which is the same as voting No. SB 772 supporters include the Friends of the
Earth, Consumer Federation of California, California Professional Firefighters,
Environmental Working Group, Making our Milk Safe (MOMS), and other health and
environmental advocates. SB 772 now moves to the Assembly.

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