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September / 2017

Federal Panel Votes to Protect Public Against Flame Retardants in Baby Products, Furniture

Huge Win for Environmental Health Advocates

On September 20, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) granted a joint petition to ban the entire harmful chemical class of organohalogen flame retardants in children’s products, furniture, mattresses, and electronics cases.

The Chicago Tribune reported  that Commissioner Robert Adler compared industry arguments against taking action to Big Tobacco’s attempts to delay government responses to the health dangers of cigarette smoking, stating, “The more evidence accumulates, the stronger we see the case against the use of these chemicals.”

JMF grantees Earthjustice and the Learning Disabilities Association of America joined with many others to submit the petition in 2015, hoping that the CPSC would act, as they have, to protect children, firefighters, and consumers from the dangerous health impacts of flame retardants.

This ruling sets a precedent of considering entire classes of chemicals with similar properties and similar hazards, rather than considering them one chemical at a time, which can lead to regrettable substitutions. The Green Science Policy Institute is doing valuable work popularizing this class-based approach to safer chemistry. Their six-minute video on flame retardants is available here.

While the new rule is being enacted, the CPSC will publish a Guidance Document in the Federal Register advising manufacturers of children’s products, furniture, mattresses, and electronics cases to decrease the unnecessary use of organohalogen flame retardants in their products. The commission also set in motion what will likely be a contentious debate about new regulations prohibiting manufacturers from adding any halogenated flame retardants to products covered by the ban.

Overall, the CPSC’s actions should go a long way toward moving the market towards healthier products.