The Clean Water Blog

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Maryland bans toxic flame retardants, can Massachusetts be next?

Ian Hyp

At this point many people are aware of the dangers of the toxic flame-retardant chemicals that are applied to household products.  Now, widespread concern is turning into real action. Motivated by consumer interest, many manufacturers and retailers have been phasing out these chemicals and using safer, fire resistant materials. Thirteen states have already restricted the use of one or more flame-retardant chemicals. Maine, California and others have passed legislation drastically limiting these chemicals in the home, and last month Maryland joined them by passing tough restrictions on toxic flame retardants in products. Meanwhile, Massachusetts residents wait patiently for the same protections.

A Refresher: Flame retardant chemicals are used in products throughout the home, including but not limited to, highchairs, car seats, nursing pads, furniture, carpet pads, and electronics - including toys.  The chemicals do not stay put, and ultimately ends up in the air, in household dust and ultimately in our bodies. They accumulate in us and lead to an array of negative health effects, especially in children and firefighters. Flame retardant chemicals are linked to reproductive harm, endocrine disruption, damage to our organs and immune systems, cancer and lower IQ and developmental problems in children.  Often, these chemicals are not an effective way to avoid house fires, and there are safer, less toxic options available.

Maryland’s success—the Family and Firefighter Protection Act: A big shout out goes to the advocates and legislators in the state of Maryland who have put the kibosh on the sale of products treated with toxic flame retardant chemicals in a wide array of products. As of May 7th, Maryland state law now states that no person is permitted to import, sell, or even attempt to sell certain products that contain more than one-tenth of 1% of the specified flame retardant chemicals.  Some products included in this list: adult mattresses, furniture, kid’s car seats, toys and walkers, bassinets, and strollers (just to name a few). Referred to as the Family and Firefighters protection Act this effort was championed by Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland, The Maryland Fireman’s Association, Maryland PIRG, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Can Massachusetts be next? Here in Massachusetts we are SO close to claiming a similar victory as we work to pass our version of this legislation, known as the Children, Families and Firefighters Protection Act (S. 2349/H.3500). This flame retardants bill has been considered here in Massachusetts in four legislative sessions, and Jan 1st, 2019, after making its way through the state senate and house, it was put on the governor’s desk only to be vetoed. Sponsored by Senator Cynthia Stone Creem and Representative Marjorie Decker, the Children, Families and Firefighters Protection Act has passed the MA Senate and is awaiting attention by the House Ways and Means Committee before it can go to the House floor for a vote. With an added focus on public health issues due to the COVID 19 pandemic, and momentum from Maryland’s recent victory, Massachusetts cannot be far behind. Let’s get this public health “must have” put into law--MA legislators need to follow suit!

Take action: Sign the petition to protect our health from toxic chemicals in everyday products and urge the Massachusetts legislature to ban toxic flame retardants. Note: this petition also supports a bill to ban toxic PFAS, the “forever chemicals” in food packaging.  This petition is just one way of building momentum despite COVID 19 related shutdowns. Take action today!