AB 127 reduces toxic flame retardants in building insulation, maintains fire safety (signed into law)

Also see: Historic bill to reduce toxic flame retardants in building insulation signed by Governor Brown

Update: AB 127 was signed by Governor Brown on October 5, 2013. This bill is an important first step towards allowing the use of building insulation without harmful flame retardants when there is no added fire safety benefit from the chemicals. 

CFC supports AB 127 (Skinner), which would reduce the use of flame retardant chemicals in building insulation while maintaining building fire safety and encouraging healthy building practices. Once implemented, AB 127 will make building insulation safer and less toxic, without reducing fire safety for building occupants.

Plastic foam insulation is used in buildings to achieve energy efficiency goals.  Flame retardant chemicals are added to these materials in an attempt to reduce fire risk. Unfortunately, these same flame retardants can escape from the insulation throughout its life cycle and end up in our indoor and outdoor environments.

In California, the presence of flame retardants in our environments and bodies is well documented.  We have higher levels of flame retardants in our bodies than anywhere else in the United States, and much higher levels than in Europe.  The potential for these chemicals to adversely affect our health, and especially the health of our children, is cause for concern.

Additionally, when flame retardants catch fire, they are toxic to breathe in, which can cause harm to emergency responders.

Finally, there are no good ways to dispose of insulation with these flame retardants without further polluting our environment. Together these concerns are cause for change.

Current building code requires both: (1) that a thermal barrier be installed to provide fire protection, and (2) that insulation pass a flammability test. The code does not specifically call for the use of flame retardants on plastic foam insulation; however, it is common practice to use flame retardants to meet code requirements.

Given the toxicity concerns surrounding flame retardants, it is time for the code to be updated so that toxic flame retardant chemicals are not required, especially when they add no fire safety benefit. AB 127 calls for a building code revision to reduce the use of flame retardant chemicals in building insulation while maintaining building fire safety and encouraging healthy building practices.

Also see: Ineffective, toxic flame-retardant chemicals on the way out

Organizations supporting AB 127 (partial list):

California Professional Firefighters
Clean Water Action
Natural Resources Defense Council
Sierra Club California
Consumer Federation of California
Association of Regional Center Agencies
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
Breast Cancer Fund
Breast Cancer Action
Physicians for Social Responsibility – San Francisco Bay
Center for Environmental Health
San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation
Trauma Foundation
United States Green Building Council, California Chapter
Developmental Center for Appropriate Technology
Episcopal Diocese Commission on the Environment
Fire Science and Technology, Inc.
Green Science Policy Institute
Lake/Flato Architects
Northern California Chapter of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility
Siegel & Strain Architects