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Research and education by the Silent Spring Institute contributed to a code change in the city of Boston that will reduce human exposure to flame retardants, while studies in Washington State have confirmed that the efforts of the Washington Toxics Coalition, among others, have reduced exposure to marine wildlife.
In June at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in British Columbia, scientists presented research confirming that several species of wildlife in Puget Sound, including harbor seals, Pacific herring, and English sole, have decreasing levels of the toxic flame retardant PBDE in their bodies as a result of a statewide ban on these chemicals in 2007. These positive testing results corroborate others and are a testament to the hard work of many groups, including the Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC), which has worked for over a decade to educate citizens and legislators about the need to phase out these toxic chemicals. Also thanks to the efforts of these groups, a law was passed this April that bans five flame retardants in Washington state.
Boston Fire Code Change:
In April, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh signed a bill to amend the Boston Fire Code so that public spaces in the city can have furniture free of harmful flame retardant chemicals. This was a major win for public health that doesn’t compromise fire safety. A number of organizations were active in supporting this change including the Silent Spring Institute, whose research showed that, before California’s similar code was changed in 2013, Californians had twice the national average of toxic flame retardants in their blood.
In the aftermath of the code update, Harvard has begun the switch to flame retardant-free furniture in some upcoming renovation projects. According to a Silent Spring Institutepress release, “What happened in Boston is a reflection of a changing culture, not just among large institutions, but also among first responders concerned about the health risks from exposure to flame retardants and the high cancer rates among their ranks.”
More coverage of the code change can be found here.