Good News: CA to Change Flame Retardant Regulation

Someday, you might not have to wonder if your nursing pillow contains chemicals
linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility.

Last week my husband called me during his commute to tell me he'd heard a story on NPR about California and flame retardant regulation. After a bit of googling, I found the story online: Governor Orders Change in State Policy on Flame Retardants in Furniture. Then today, I went back to the Chicago Tribune Watchdog's page for their Flame Retardant series and found this article in the Updates: Key agency moves to scrap rules that made toxic flame retardant common in U.S. furniture.
Tonya Blood, chief of the California agency that regulates furniture, said the new test will require furniture to resist a smoldering cigarette. The existing standard requires the foam in furniture cushions to withstand a candlelike flame, even though candles are a far less common cause of fires. Federal safety officials have said that the fabric covering most furniture is sufficient to meet a smolder standard, making it unnecessary to add chemicals to the foam underneath... Blood also said she will work to exempt most baby products from the state's flammability standards; manufacturers have added flame retardants to many such products that contain polyurethane foam to meet California's rule. (source)

This is no small potatoes. California's flame retardant regulation is one of the strictest in the nation, and as a result, "Californians are among the most highly polluted people in the world with flame retardants." Citizens for Fire Safety Institute, a front group for the largest manufacturers of flame retardants, "has successfully fought efforts by lawmakers to scale back use of chemicals or change the standard, which was established in 1975" (source), but it looks like change is finally coming. Even if you don't live in California, a change to California's flame retardant regulation will probably affect you too, because your furniture is probably being manufactured to California's standard.
While the rule technically governs furniture sold only in California, many manufacturers add flame retardants to products sold nationwide to address liability concerns and to avoid making two versions of the same product. (source)

I may take a year or more for the changes to go into effect, but just imagine: someday you may be able to buy a sofa that doesn't contain two pounds of flame retardant! And wouldn't it be lovely to be able to buy a nursing pillow, crib mattress, or other baby products without having to worry about whether toxic and ineffective flame retardant chemicals were added to them? I will be interested to read more about how this regulation affects mattresses and other sleep products.

Nonetheless, the fight isn't over. 
Over the years, the chemical lobby has proved resilient in the face of health concerns associated with flame retardants. Just last week in New York state, a bill that would have made it illegal for the manufacturers of baby products to use a carcinogenic flame retardant known as chlorinated tris failed to pass in that state's Senate. While supporters said they had lined up enough votes to pass it, the bill was sidelined to a committee and never called for a vote. (source)

Still, considering the amount of my life I have lost to worrying about flame retardants and to searching for products free of these harmful chemicals, I say, "Hip Hip Hooray!" It's a step in the right direction.


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