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February 8, 2013

Toxic Flame Retardant Chemicals:
California’s Governor Brown’s Fire Safety Regulation Unveiled
Better Fire Safety, Health and Environment Protections

Read Statement from Californians for Toxic Free Fire Safety

(Sacramento) Consumers, environmental health advocates, health professionals, and firefighters applauded Governor Jerry Brown’s new fire safety regulation today, issuing this statement. The draft language of TB 117-2013 was posted for a 45-day public comment period today, and aims to improve fire safety without the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals linked to neurodevelopmental impairment, infertility, and cancer.

California State Senator Mark Leno, who has previously authored 4 bills aimed at curbing toxic flame retardant chemicals, remarked, “Scientific studies have long recognized that our current safety standard has been ineffective at preventing fires. Meanwhile, the chemicals used to meet the standard make their way into household dust, our food supply, soil, rivers and oceans, posing harm to children, pregnant mothers, families, firefighters and even pets and wildlife. I am pleased to support the Administration’s efforts to adopt an updated standard that ensures fire safety while reducing these threats to human health and our environment.”

“An updated furniture flammability standard is a win-win for millions of people in California and across the country because it will achieve better fire safety while eliminating the need for toxic chemicals,” said Sarah Janssen, MD, PhD, MPH, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “All of us carry flame retardant chemicals in our bodies which have been linked to lower IQs in children, infertility and cancer. Getting these chemicals out of our couches will protect everyone’s health.”

“The Brown administration is taking a stand for safety and health,” commented Ana Mascareñas, Policy and Communications Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. “Flame retardant chemical manufacturers have spent millions to keep ineffective fire rules in place, defeat restrictions on toxic chemicals, and are trying to get California legislators to pressure Brown now. We need the public to submit comments over the next 45 days in support of a smart, science-based approach to fire safety without harmful chemicals.”

“Hard to believe it’s been nearly three decades since the cancer-causing flame retardant tris was removed from baby pajamas,” said Arlene Blum PhD, Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute. “It is so great that Governor Brown has taken the lead in protecting us from such chemicals in our furniture and our bodies. We will all be healthier without toxic flame retardants in our homes."

California’s previous regulation virtually forced manufacturers to use the toxic flame retardants to meet an obsolete regulation that this new decree will replace.

"Firefighters are faced with a complicated chemical puzzle every time we enter a burning building. We want to eliminate the ‘big pieces’ of the puzzle. We consider flame retardant chemicals to be a very big and toxic piece of puzzle. Their ability to bioaccumulate in our bodies raises a red flag in our profession,” added Tony Stefani, cancer survivor, retired San Francisco Firefighter Captain and founder of San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation.

“As a retired Fire Captain with more than 30 years on the job, I have lost many Brother and Sister Firefighters to job related cancer. These Firefighters all died too young. This new draft regulation may be too late for many Firefighters, but it will definitely make a difference for current and future ones. Firefighters know that our job is a very dangerous one and that there are risks that we agree to when we report for duty. But the risks that we have been exposed to by the chemical companies were unnecessary and only served one purpose. And that is to create a profit for the chemical companies, said Jim Doucette, Executive Director, Firefighters Burn Institute and a retired Captain Sacramento Fire Department.

“Because structure fires burn so much hotter than ever before, flame retardants offer little if any protection,” said Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters. “But they do add to the toxic haze that often engulfs firefighters when they respond to a call. These inhalants are a major cause of death for fire victims and have been linked to higher cancer rates among firefighters. In issuing this draft update to the furniture flammability standard, the governor deserves credit for acting to protect the safety of firefighters and those we serve.”

“This is an important victory for consumers,” said Richard Holober, Executive Director of Consumer Federation of California. “For nearly four decades, chemical manufacturers have reaped billions in profits at consumers’ expense. Chemical industry-funded front groups spent $23 million in lobbying and campaign donations in California alone in the past five years - stopping attempts to change the toxic and ineffective furniture flammability regulation called TB 117. We are pleased that Governor Brown has taken the important step forward to transform an obsolete regulation with a new draft, TB 117-2013, which follows the advice of safety experts – not chemical manufacturers.”

In December, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found flame retardant chemicals, including the cancer-causing flame retardant chemical chlorinated Tris, in products for infants and young children. Judy Levin, Pollution Prevention Program Co-Director for CEH, remarked, “Children and their parents should not have to worry about toxic chemicals while their children sleep and play. We are so grateful to Governor Brown and his staff for promoting a fire safety standard that is based on real fire science and protects public health.”

“We've been concerned about the impact of these chemicals on our families for awhile," says Nourbese Flint M.A.W.H. of Black Women for Wellness. "The fact that California's children have some of the highest rates in the world of these toxic chemicals in their bodies, with the added concern that flame retardant chemicals are now showing up in umbilical cord blood, we are excited that California leadership is taking this step to protect our families and our children's health.”

Available for Interviews

For media assistance Stephenie Hendricks 415 258-9151 stephdh@earthlink.net)

Arlene Blum PhD,, a chemist with Green Science Policy Institute, has been studying the harmful effects of these chemicals since the 1970’s. 510.644.3164, Arlene@GreenSciencePolicy.org Dr. Blum is a study co-author whose research in the 1070’s led to the removal of chlorinated Tris from children’s pajamas.

Jose T. Bravo, Executive Director, Just Transition Alliance, San Diego, CA. 619.838.6694, jose@just-transition.org. Jose works with communities contaminated with chemicals, which occurs mostly where people of color and low-income residents live, Habla Espanol.

Jim Doucette, Executive Director, Firefighters Burn Institute, Retired Captain Sacramento Fire Department 916.224.6553 www.ffburn.org.

Nourbese Flint, Program Manager, Black Women for Wellness, nourbese@bwwla.org, 323-290-5955. Nourbese can address chemical industry targeting of people of color and disproportioante impacts of toxic chemicals on communities of color.

Richard Holober, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of California. 916.498.9608 cell: 650.307.7033 Richard can address how this regulation affects consumers - and CFC's battle (alongside a coalition of firefighters, public health officers, environmental groups, parents, scientists, and many others) to change a 37-year old state regulation that saturated California homes with toxic flame retardant chemicals.

Sarah Janssen, MD, PhD, MPH, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, 415.875. 6126, sjanssen@nrdc.org. Dr. Janssen can address health effects linked to flame retardant chemicals exposure.

California State Senator Mark Leno, Ali Bay 916.651.4011, Ali.Bay@sen.ca.gov. Senator Leno has authored four bills related to California’s flammability standard. His 2011 legislation, SB 147, would have allowed consumers the choice of purchasing furniture and baby products that are fire safe and do not contain toxic chemical fire retardants.

Judy Levin, MSW, Pollution Prevention Co-Director, Center for Environmental Health, judy@cehca.org; 510.655.3900 x316, cell: 510.697.3947. Judy can discuss environmental health impacts to children and CEH efforts to change the CA regulation TB 117.

Donald Lucas, Ph.D. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, d_lucas@lbl.gov
510.316.6764. Dr. Lucas can address fire safety science.

Ana Mascareñas, Policy & Communications Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles (PSR-LA) 213.689.9170. amascarenas@psr-la.org. Ana is also co-coordinator of Californians for Toxic free Fire Safety and can address CA policy efforts to stop exposure to flame retardants, update flammability standard TB 117, and efforts by the chemical industry to mislead communities of color on the science and hazards of flame retardant chemicals.

Andrew McGuire, Executive Director, Trauma Foundation, San Francisco General Hospital, 415.215.8980. Andrew can address how flame retardant corporations employ tactics developed by the tobacco industry since a former Vice President of the Tobacco Institute was employed to deflect regulation of the flame retardant industry. The two main tactics have included attacking the science about the toxic hazards of fire retardant chemicals and creating phony “AstroTurf” organizations to mislead the media, legislators and the public about the toxic hazards of their products.

Tony Stefani, cancer survivor, retired San Francisco Firefighter Captain and founder of San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation. Contact Tony by email, stefanit@sbcglobal.net, Tony can address high rates of cancer among firefighters and his support for removing toxic flame retardants from furniture.

Carroll Wills, California Professional Firefighters, 916.921.911,cwills@cpf.org. Carroll can address toxic exposures firefighters face, and the need for fire safety without the use of toxic chemicals.

Ami Zota, PhD, Research Fellow, Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment
University of California, San Francisco cell 617.512.6045, ZotaAR@obgyn.ucsf.edu. Dr. Zota can address reproductive health research.


Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (BEARHFTI)

Californians for Toxic Free Fire Safety

Alliance for Toxic Free Fire Safety