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Gov. Newsom Signs No Toxics Tent Act

October 16, 2023

SACRAMENTO—On Saturday California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 267, The No Toxics Tent Act. The legislation fixes an outdated flammability code that has led to the addition of unneeded and harmful flame retardants to camping tents and children’s play tents and tunnels.

The original code was last updated in 1975, when tents were typically made with highly flammable heavyweight cotton canvas. In contrast, modern camping tents are made with lightweight synthetic materials that are inherently much less flammable. Testing and field data confirm there is no meaningful fire safety benefit to adding flame retardant chemicals to synthetic-fabric tents. However, there is a multitude of data showing human and environmental health harms from these chemicals, from cancer to lowered IQ.  

“It’s a big relief that campers, climbers, and children will soon be able to sleep and play in healthier tents without flame retardant chemicals,” said Arlene Blum, mountaineer and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. “This legislation ensures tents will be both be safe from fires and safe for the health of humans, wildlife and the wilderness we love.”   

This update exempts synthetic-fabric camping and backpacking tents with an occupancy of less than 15 people, as well as children’s play tents and tunnels, from needing to comply with the flammability standard meant for old canvas tents. Due to California’s large market size, most manufacturers have been using flame retardants to meet the state’s code for all of their tents sold in North America. Tags stating the tent’s fabric “meets CPAI-84” usually indicate the use of flame retardants. Therefore, with the updated regulation, most tents sold to Americans will no longer be treated with unnecessary and harmful chemicals.

The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-San Ramon) and sponsored by the California Outdoor Recreation Partnership. Notably, leading tent manufacturers and retailers including Marmot, The North Face and REI and supported the bill.

This story is reminiscent of another old California flammability standard that led to flame retardants being added to the nation’s upholstered furniture and certain baby products for decades, with no fire safety benefit. After years of work by the Green Science Policy Institute and other scientists, NGOs, and advocates, then-Governor Jerry Brown directed the state to revise it in 2013. As a result, furniture and baby products manufactured after 2015 are unlikely to contain flame retardants. 

“The sagas of California’s furniture and tent codes should call attention to product flammability standards at large, and to the dubious committees and processes that create them,” said Lydia Jahl, a scientist at the Green Science Policy Institute. “I’m hopeful other unscientific and harmful flammability standards, like those for electronics and vehicles, will be revised as well.”


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