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Dramatic Shift in Federal Policy: Pregnant Women & Children Warned Against Products with Toxic Flame Retardants

September 27, 2017

BERKELEY CA (September 28, 2017) – Today the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a landmark guidance in the Federal Registry recommending that consumers, especially those who are pregnant or with young children, obtain assurances from retailers that children’s products, furniture, mattresses, and electronics cases do not contain any chemical in the class of organohalogen flame retardants. Furthermore the Commission recommends that manufacturers of such products eliminate the use of these chemicals.

Toxic flame retardant chemicals are found in the bodies of 97% of Americans. They are associated with cancer, infertility, obesity, reduced IQ and neurological impairments in children, and hormone disruption. Sadly, toddlers have 3 to 10 times the flame retardant levels of adults, or even more. This can affect their developing brains and reproductive organs when they are most vulnerable to lasting harm.

“As a policy maker, and more importantly, as a parent, I am horrified and outraged at how chemicals are addressed in this country,” Commissioner Eliott Kaye wrote in his statement on the CPSC decision. “Waiting to assess the safety of chemicals after they are already in consumers’ homes and our children’s bloodstreams is totally irrational public policy.”

Today’s Federal Register notice follows the CPSC’s precedent-setting September 20 decision to grant a petition to ban children’s products, furniture, mattresses, and electronics cases that contain any member of the class of additive, organohalogen flame retardant chemicals. You can learn more about the class concept here.

“The evidence has built to the point that all these chemicals and all future chemicals of this class will escape into the environment and make their way into people. I have no doubt about this,” Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, stated at a CPSC hearing on September 14, 2017.

When asked if scientific studies have found any such flame retardants that do not pose health risks, Dr. Birnbaum said, “I know of none that do not have the potential to cause serious effects.”

“The CPSC recommendation in the Federal Registry should send a signal to manufacturers to limit use of all flame retardants in products where they do not provide a fire safety benefit,” said Dr. Arlene Blum whose scientific research at the Green Science Policy Institute has reduced the use of toxic chemicals. “There is already data suggesting that alternative flame retardants may pose similar health problems.”

Commissioner Marietta Robinson pointed out that during days of testimony and in many dozens of written comments the only statements opposing the ban “represent those with a financial interest in continuing to have these potentially, and in some cases definitively, toxic, chemicals in our environment.”

Also, firefighter organizations support banning the use of these flame retardants because they do not provide a fire safety benefit in these products, and they make fires more deadly. When consumer products containing these chemicals burn (and they do burn), they emit more toxic gases when flame retardants are present.

“This historic ruling can prevent the common practice of banning a harmful chemical only to replace it with a similar chemical that causes similar health problems,” according to Dr. Blum. “It will set a precedent of regulating chemicals by class and can prevent harm from exposure to the entire chemical class.”

This petition is based on extensive scientific research and includes detailed letters of support from thirteen distinguished scientists and physicians.

On March 31, 2015, a coalition including pediatricians, firefighters, consumer groups, and scientists represented by Earthjustice and the Consumer Federation of America filed a petition calling on the CPSC to protect Americans, especially children, from known adverse health effects from brominated and chlorinated flame retardants. Petitioners include: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Women’s Association, Consumers Union, Green Science Policy Institute, International Association of Fire Fighters, Kids in Danger, Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, League of United Latin American Citizens, Learning Disabilities Association of America, National Hispanic Medical Association, and Worksafe.

Contact: [email protected] ; 510.919.6363

Source: Green Science Policy Institute,