Protecting babies from fire and chemicals - Page 2

"This nonprofit front is just one of the extraordinary efforts of the chemical companies to stop bills of this nature"

The California EPA has reported that the highest tissue concentrations of PBDEs are found in California aquatic life, with rising levels in San Francisco Bay harbor seals. Long believes "this is one of the biggest toxic threats facing Californians today".

This is Leno's second attempt at passing a bill involving these particular issues. The first, SB 706, introduced last year, sought to directly ban the use of toxic fire retardants. SB 706 was named the Crystal Golden-Jefferson Act, in memory of a 41-year-old firefighter who died of work-related, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It is believed she developed the condition after breathing in dioxin (a highly toxic carcinogen) that was released from burning flame-retardants. Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Maine have already passed bills banning dioxin and have started phasing it out.

Banning chemicals is hard to do. Richard Holober of the Consumer Federation of California says that the petrochemical industry will slightly alter a banned chemical, "sort of chasing one version after another." In the United States, chemicals are mass-produced and distributed until they are found to be dangerous. In Europe, chemicals must be proven safe first.

The most outspoken opposition to both bills, SB 706 and SB 772, is a group called Citizens for Fire Safety. The group, headed by Jacobson, argues that fire retardants saves lives, noting that since California established TB 117 California structure fires have dropped by about 60 percent. Records from the National Fire Protection Association show a drop of 32 percent between 1980 and 2000. Yet other states, including New York, show a drop of 40 percent without a similar fire regulation. The drop can easily be ascribed to an increase in smoke detectors, better education, and more regulations on cigarettes: the number one fire instigator.

Citizens for Fire Safety's funding is suspicious. Its Web site clearly states "a portion of our funding&ldots;comes from various chemical industry leaders." Indeed, Jacobson says he has no problems accepting funding from the same companies that manufacture the chemicals in question. Leno believes Citizens for Fire Safety is a "concerted business effort to confuse the public."

This nonprofit front is just one of the extraordinary efforts of the chemical companies to stop bills of this nature. According to Holober, the bromine companies spent between $6 million and $9 million on lobbyists and efforts to derail SB 706. This is the largest amount spent by a consumer-interest group in lobbying efforts, Leno and Holober say.

Public records show that the two biggest lobbying efforts on behalf of Citizens for Fire Safety represent the Citizens for Fire Safety Institute, (which is funded by chemical corporations) and a PR group representing the Bromine Science and Environmental Forum. The BSEF represents all the major brominated flame-retardant companies.

Joe Kerr, president of Orange County Professional Firefighters Association Local 3631, makes more reasonable objections to SB 772. Kerr opposes the deregulation until "all the principals are brought to the table. Get the burn ward doctors, and the environmentalists, EPA, and Mark Leno together — because there are good arguments on both sides." In the meantime, Kerr doesn't want to "throw the baby out with the bathwater." He also voices concern that some consumers will stop buying California products if the state's fire standard is lowered.
SB 772 is a deregulatory, pro-environment bill that gives the market the option to decide. Any product that does not meet regulations will be labeled accordingly.


February 11, 2010

I would like to applaud last month’s announcement concerning the development of new fire safety products. This commitment, made to the EPA by several large industry manufacturers, signifies an appropriate and responsible step to protect human health and the environment. Unfortunately, recent legislation introduced in the California State Senate has jeopardized the value of the EPA agreement. SB 772 would immediately ban flame retardants from children’s products. This bill is eligible to be heard in the Assembly in early 2010, and does not offer a strategy for the development of new flame retardant technologies. I feel that fire safety is a national concern, and state efforts like this will only undermine the progress of the federal government and hinder the development of superior technology.

As we make this transition to a new generation of products, we must remain watchful of such legislation that would preemptively ban existing products, leaving communities without adequate fire safety protection in the interim. These unnecessary and harmful bills will leave California communities vulnerable to fires right in the middle of our already dangerous and devastating fire season.

The timeline set by the EPA is the most efficient way to phase out these chemicals in place of their more environmentally friendly successors. The EPA agreement sets forth a rational, effective transition to newer alternatives, while allowing critical services such as police, fire and airlines to continue to use existing fire safety products that are critically important to saving lives. Proactive safety manufacturers have already announced the production of these environmentally-friendly fire retardants which minimize the use of raw materials, energy, byproducts and waste. Hailed by the EPA and several well-respected firefighting organizations, this agreement will undoubtedly prove to be the paramount model of sustainable fire safety in the future.

As a firefighter, I have seen the difference that mere minutes can make in terms of a fire’s severity. With the help of fire retardants, homes and families are saved every day. Flame retardants have stopped thousands of fires from breaking out in residential homes. During this time of progress and development, we cannot place theoretical health risks above the very real risks of injury and death that flame retardant products seek to prevent. Our top priority should be to develop the most effective safety measures while maintaining the highest safety standards.

I encourage all citizens of California and the nation to trust the scientists of the federal environmental agencies and not act precipitously to put our families and children at risk of serious injury or death. You can support the EPA agreement by visiting, a website dedicated to the phase out and development of flame retardants. I believe that an effective national solution to this critical issue is the only solution that is truly safe.


Joe Kerr, President
Orange County Professional Firefighters Association

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

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