Californians for Toxic-Free Fire Safety
February 8, 2013 Coalition Statement Regarding TB 117-2013
California Governor Jerry Brown is taking an important step to improve fire safety and protect our children, homes, workplaces, and communities from toxic flame retardant chemicals. For more than 30 years, toxic flame retardant chemicals have been added to furniture and baby products to meet a California flammability rule, yet they don’t work as promised. An update to that rule, released today and called TB 117-2013, takes a commonsense approach to protecting public health and safety by addressing how and where fires start. It requires a smolder test on fabric that reflects real-life fire scenarios.
Instead of protecting us from furniture fires, toxic flame retardant chemicals added to furniture and baby products continuously leach out and have been detected in our bodies, environment, pets and wildlife. They are linked to many health problems, including lower IQs in children, reduced fertility, and increased cancer risks. Flame retardants can make fires more deadly by increasing smoke and toxic gases, which are the major causes of fire deaths and injuries. Firefighters experience higher cancer rates which are believed to be associated with on-the-job chemical exposures.
Communities of color already bear a disproportionate burden of toxic chemicals in their homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods, and studies show flame retardant chemicals contribute to this disparity. In California, children carry flame retardant chemicals in their bodies at concentrations amongst the highest in the world. These are just some of the health and environmental problems associated with California’s flammability rule, and no fire safety benefit.
The root of this problem is a 1975 furniture flammability regulation called TB 117, which is the de facto flammability standard for the entire nation. In June of last year, Governor Brown issued a directive to update TB 117 to ensure fire safety and reduce toxic chemicals in furniture and baby products. Since that time, the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (BEARHFTI) has worked with multiple stakeholders, including furniture manufacturers, retailers, fire safety experts, firefighters, environmental health advocates, environmental justice communities, scientists, and health professionals to present a new draft of this rule called TB 117-2013.
The makers of flame retardant chemicals have also weighed in on the process, but by waging a fear and misinformation campaign. From giving false testimony about a child burn victim in state capitols across the nation, to recently showing California legislators a flawed, unpublished study during an oversight hearing, and falsely claiming it was supported by the Department of Justice. These chemical manufacturers, their lobbyists, and paid witnesses, make up the sole voice claiming the outdated TB 117 provides a fire safety benefit.
Businesses suffer when forced to buy and use toxic flame retardant chemicals to meet the outdated TB 117. Now, by updating California's flammability rule, the business community finally can make and sell safer products for their customers.
The new draft TB 117-2013 follows the advice of fire safety experts, not chemical manufacturers. It focuses on a smolder test for fabric and will provide greater fire protection without adding flame retardant chemicals to our homes and bodies. Now is the time for Californians to step forward with Governor Brown and demand better fire safety and protection from toxic chemicals with TB 117-2013.