Legislation to Protect Californians from Toxic Flame Retardant Chemicals Passes Key Assembly Committee

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

SACRAMENTO – A measure to protect Californians from toxic flame retardant chemicals passed out of the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee today on a 5-2 vote. AB 2998, introduced by Assemblymember Richard Boom (D-Santa Monica), prohibits the sale of juvenile products, mattresses, and upholstered or reupholstered furniture in California that contain toxic flame retardant chemicals.

“For too long, we have allowed flame retardant chemicals to poison our children and fill the lungs of firefighters with carcinogenic toxins,” said Assemblymember Richard Bloom. “This year, we say ‘enough’. It’s time to put the safety of Californians first.”

Flame retardant chemicals are added to a variety of household products, including fabrics, furniture, and children’s products. Originally introduced into some of these products to meet now-defunct flammability standards, these chemicals are ubiquitous in American households and have steadily built up in human bodies and in the environment. Today, Americans have higher levels of these chemicals in their bodies than populations in other developed countries, at levels 10 times higher than those in Europe and 3 times higher than Canada.

Although flame retardants are a danger to the general public, children and firefighters are at particularly high risk of exposure. Infants are exposed to these chemicals at higher levels than adults, often coming into contact with them in dust or through breast milk. Studies have linked these chemicals to lower birth weight, reduced IQ, and impaired neurological development in children.  Additionally, when flame retardant chemicals burn, they convert into dioxins and furans: toxic substances known to cause cancer. Firefighters inhale these chemicals in the process of fighting fires and over the past several decades, cancer rates have increased among firefighters in part due to the presence of these chemicals.

AB 2998 prohibits the sale of specific products – juvenile products, mattresses, and upholstered or reupholstered furniture in California – that contain toxic flame retardant chemicals. All of the products identified in the bill either have no flammability standard or a standard that can easily be met without the use of flame retardant chemicals.

In fact, much of the industry in all three sectors, has moved away from the use of flame retardant chemicals, in part thanks to legislation and increased public awareness. However, stragglers remain and a ban is necessary to better limit exposure risks.

“Despite positive legislative and regulatory movement on this issue over the past few years, flame retardant chemicals continue to needlessly persist in a variety of household products. AB 2998 will protect consumers by eliminating their presence in these products.”

AB 2998 is supported by a broad coalition of organizations representing public health, environmental protection, firefighters, and retailers. The bill now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  

Richard Bloom represents California’s 50th Assembly District, which comprises the communities of Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles.