Toxic flame retardant reduction in building insulation signed by Governor Brown

Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law AB 127 (Skinner), which for the first time, directs the California State Fire Marshal to consider fire safety without the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals commonly used in building insulation.

Building insulation in California has been required to include toxic flame retardant chemicals, which have been linked cancer, decreased fertility, hormone disruption, lowered IQ, developmental problems, and environmental pollution. Making matters worse, these chemicals fail to offer additional fire safety.

Consumer Federation of California, alongside a coalition of firefighters, public health officers, environmental groups, parents, scientists, and many others battled the chemical industry for more than six years and finally won a breakthrough for our health and safety. Governor Brown recently directed the state to update its flammability standards to stop the use of ineffective, toxic flame retardants in furniture.

Lawmakers were urged to go a step further and roll back a similar mandate that requires manufacturers of building insulation to add toxic flame retardants to their products as well. When Assemblymember Nancy Skinner introduced AB 127, which calls for the reduction of toxic flame retardants in building insulation while maintaining building fire safety and encouraging healthful building practices, CFC and the coalition firmly supported the bill.

Having received bipartisan support in the Assembly and Senate, AB 127 was signed by Governor Brown on October 5, 2013. This is another important step toward reducing toxic chemicals when there is no added fire safety benefit from them.

“This is an important victory for consumers,” said Richard Holober, Executive Director of Consumer Federation of California. “For nearly four decades, chemical manufacturers have reaped billions in profits at consumers’ expense. We are pleased that Governor Brown has taken this important step forward so that toxic flame retardant chemicals are not required in building insulation, especially when they add no fire safety benefits.”

“Excellent news that the state of California recognizes the need to revise out-dated flammability standards for both furniture and building insulation,” said Dr. Arlene Blum, of the Green Science Policy Institute and the UC Berkeley chemistry department, “These old standards lead to the use of flame retardant chemicals associated with health and environmental harm, but we understand now that they don’t provide a fire safety benefit in many cases, such as in insulation used below grade and behind thermal barriers.”

Dr. Vytenis Babrauskas, a leading fire scientist, explains, “My recent paper on this subject shows that the current practice of adding flame retardant chemicals to building insulation does not benefit fire safety for most applications. Changing regulations to allow removal of such chemicals will not diminish fire safety, but will be highly beneficial for public health and the environment. I congratulate the State of California for taking this progressive step.”

“The United Nations’ treaty on the most dangerous chemicals in the world, the Stockholm Convention, has added HBCD [flame retardant chemical] to the list for phase out. California is taking into account the current science and knowledge linking this chemical to health impacts, and keeping pace with the global standards that are emerging regarding these chemicals,” explains Dr. Veena Singla, senior scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute.

The State Fire Marshal, in consultation with the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings, and Thermal Insulation, will review the flammability standards for building insulation materials. The State Fire Marshal may propose, by July 1, 2015, for consideration by the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission, updated insulation flammability standards whose objectives include maintaining overall building fire safety.

Also see: AB 127 reduces toxic flame retardants in building insulation, maintains fire safety
Also see: Ineffective, toxic flame retardant chemicals on the way out


Available for interviews:

Richard Holober, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of California, can discuss AB 127 and how it benefits consumers by making building insulation safer and less toxic, without reducing fire safety for building occupants.
(916) 498-9608,

Vytenis (Vyto) Babrauskas, Ph.D., Fire Science & Technology Inc. Dr. Babrauskas can address fire science and the overstated messaging on flame retardant chemical benefits.
(425) 222-9499,

Arlene Blum PhD, a chemist and Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute, has been studying the harmful effects of these chemicals since the 1970’s. (510) 644-3164,

Veena Singla, PhD, a senior scientist with Green Science Policy Institute, can discuss the health and environmental effects of building insulation flame retardants, and the current building codes that lead to their use.
(510) 898-1739,