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

(Sacramento, CA) ‘ ‘ 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including strollers, cribs and car seats, which the federal government has determined to be of no fire risk, from an outdated and unnecessary state law that requires them to be treated with toxic fire retardants,’ said Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).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.