CA Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Firefighters, Families

Yesterday evening, the California legislature provided final approval for Assembly Bill 2998 by Assembly Member Bloom, moving the state one step closer to eliminating toxic flame retardant chemicals from California homes. That follows Monday’s bipartisan Senate vote (28-9) to pass the bill – the bill would ban toxic flame retardant chemicals of concern from upholstered furniture, certain children’s products, and the foam in adult mattresses. The Assembly previously voted 58-12 to pass the bill; the vote there was also bipartisan. The bill now moves to the Governor’s desk.

Flame retardant chemicals are not necessary for fire safety in any of these products, and yet they unnecessarily expose people to health risks. They have been added to these products for decades, and it’s time to stop the practice.

Many flame retardant chemicals, both old and emerging, are linked to a variety of health effects from cancer to learning disabilities, reproductive harm, and hormone disruption. When products with flame retardant chemicals burn, they give off toxic by-products (dioxins and furans), which can expose firefighters to additional cancer risks. These chemicals are showing up everywhere in our environment and are building up in people, pets, and the environment. Children are particularly vulnerable to health effects since they are still developing, and California children have especially high levels in their blood.

Previous changes to regulations by the agency that regulates these products – California’s Bureau of Electronic Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings, and Thermal Insulation (BEARHFTI for short) – and state requirements for labelling have reduced the use of flame retardants in these products. However, a significant minority of products have continued to create exposures for many California families, which is especially troubling because these chemicals persist indefinitely in the environment and continue to cause exposures. Reducing the incidence of the chemicals is the surest way to reduce exposures. This bill will help put an end to the unnecessary use of these toxic flame retardants in furniture, many children’s products, and in mattress foam.

The bill was co-sponsored by NRDC, the California Professional Firefighters, and the Center for Environmental Health.

If you agree that toxic flame retardant chemicals should be eliminated from these household products, write to Governor Brown and urge him to sign AB 2998 into law.

This blog provides general information, not legal advice. If you need legal help, please consult a lawyer in your state.

About the Authors

Avinash Kar

Senior Attorney, Sustainable Agriculture and Antibiotics and Western Toxics, Health and Food, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program
Blog Post

Toxic flame retardant chemicals—linked to a variety of negative health effects—have been added to upholstered furniture, many kids’ products, and mattresses for a long time. And the kicker is that they are not even needed for fire safety.

Blog Post

California bill, AB 2998 by Assembly Member Bloom, which bans toxic flame retardant chemicals of concern from upholstered furniture, certain children’s products, and the foam of adult mattresses, just passed the state legislature with bipartisan support and is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature.

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