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New York Bans Flame Retardant Chemicals in Consumer Products

Posted: Jan. 27, 2022

5 states have now passed legislation to regulate flame retardant chemicals to protect child and firefighter health.

Passed in January 2022, New York's new Family and Firefighter Protection Act regulates the use of flame retardant chemicals. New York joins 4 other states (Delaware, Georgia, Iowa and West Virginia) in passing this type of regulation according to Safer States, a network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations. New York's legislation regulates specific chemicals in upholstered furniture, mattresses and electronic enclosures.

Why legislate?

These chemicals are meant to prevent the start of a fire or slow its growth. However, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, many of the chemicals are linked to serious health effects from cancer and reproductive issues to developmental disabilities. Some flame retardants bioaccumulate in humans, causing long-term chronic health problems.

Who is affected?

Children and firefighters are particularly at risk from the effects of the chemicals contained in flame retardants. Exposure to these compounds is associated with adverse effects on fetal and child development. When flame retardants within common household items and building materials burn, they produce toxic chemicals that firefighters are regularly exposed to in the line of duty, contributing to higher cancer rates among firefighters than those in the general population.

What's being done on the federal level?

At the federal level, amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act in 2016 required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue updated regulations for potentially harmful chemicals, including several flame retardant substances. Once the risk evaluations are completed and regulations are updated, the EPA could completely ban the chemicals, mandate personal protective equipment or ban certain uses of the chemicals.

The EPA released a draft revised risk evaluation in December 2021 for the cyclic aliphatic bromide cluster (HBCD), a subclass of flame retardants primarily used in building materials including insulation, solder paste and recycled plastics. The risk evaluation determined that this cluster of chemicals carries “unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment under the conditions of use.”

What else is being done on the state level?

According to Safer States, a total of 16 states have adopted policies for risk evaluation and future action.

What does this mean for firefighters?

Legislation at the state and federal levels restricting the use of specific flame retardant chemicals could greatly reduce firefighters' exposure to them, which will ultimately be a step forward for firefighters' health.

This article is based on content in the
Jan. 27, 2022 InfoGram.

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