As Maryland Bans Toxic Flame Retardants, Eyes on New York

In these troubled times, good news out of Maryland. Yesterday, legislation banning the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals in upholstered furniture, certain children’s products, and mattress foam became law. The bill was supported by a broad coalition that included firefighters, and environmental, consumer, and public health groups. Most manufacturers have already moved away from these unnecessary uses of these chemicals, but a stubborn minority of manufacturers continue to cause potentially harmful exposures for people. NRDC and other advocates for the legislation were able to overcome a well-financed lobbying campaign by the American Chemistry Council. Maryland’s new law follows action by other states, most notably California, which previously banned flame retardants in the same product categories.

Setting the Stage for Passage in New York

Maryland also sets an important precedent for further action on the East Coast. New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky recently introduced a similar bill, which given the state’s huge market, would help eradicate the remaining uses of these toxic chemicals in these products in the East Coast. The New York bill would additionally phase out organohalogen flame retardant chemicals in electronic display casings and stands, following the lead of the European Union—this would mark the first U.S. state taking action on these products. The bill would also require reporting to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation on the alternatives used to replace the organohalogen flame retardants. NRDC is a strong supporter of the bill and is working with many other New York advocates to advance the bill.

Flame retardant chemicals are associated with serious health effects, from cancer and reproductive harm to learning disabilities to interference with the normal operation of hormones. What’s worse, firefighters and children face especially high risks from these chemicals.

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 & Senior Director, Health & Food, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program
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Proposed legislation in Maryland would ban flame retardants in furniture, children’s products, and mattress foam; would phase out the use of the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos; and would address lead in school drinking water.

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When Governor Brown entered office eight years ago, he took action to fix the regulation that was driving the use of pounds of toxic flame retardant chemicals in couches in California, across the country, and even into Canada. With his signature on AB 2998 on Saturday, September 29, he put an end to the practice for good in California.

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