California Passes Sweeping Flame Retardant Legislation

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Today, on a bipartisan 52-13 vote, the California State Legislature passed a sweeping ban on household products containing toxic flame retardant chemicals. AB 2998, introduced by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), prohibits the sale of juvenile products, specified mattresses and mattress components, and upholstered or reupholstered furniture in California that contain unnecessary toxic flame retardant chemicals.

“Today we passed the most comprehensive statewide ban on flame retardant chemicals in the country,” said Assemblymember Bloom. “For decades, we have allowed these chemicals to be needlessly added to household products, putting ourselves and our environment at risk. AB 2998 prioritizes the health of our families, our environment, and the firefighters who risk their lives protecting us.”

Flame retardant chemicals have long been added to a variety of household products to meet now-defunct flammability standards. Today, these chemicals are ubiquitous in American households and have steadily built up in human bodies and in the environment. As a result, Americans have higher levels of these chemicals in their bodies than populations in many other developed countries.  

Among the general public, children and firefighters have particularly high exposure risks. 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, specified mattresses and mattress components, 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 segments, has moved away from the use of flame retardant chemicals, in part due labeling requirements and increased public awareness about their dangers. However, disclosure requirements have been insufficient to fully eliminate these chemicals and legislation is needed to protect all Californians from these chemicals.  

“Over the past several years, we have taken significant steps to address the profusion of these chemicals in our homes and in the environment, from updating our flammability standard to instituting labeling requirements. AB 2998 takes the next necessary step to reduce our exposure and make our homes safe.”

AB 2998 now heads to the Governor for signature.

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.