Calif. Assembly Passes Cancer-Causing Fire Retardant Ban

Calif. Assembly Passes Cancer-Causing Fire Retardant Ban


For more information contact: Russell Long, 415-302-4824 (cell); 415-544-0790, x18 (office)

Virtually all Californians tested found to have presence of fire retardants, babies found to have highest levels

SACRAMENTO-The California Furniture Safety and Fire Prevention Act, AB 706, carried by Assemblyman Mark Leno and co-sponsored by Friends of the Earth and MOMS (Making Our Milk Safe), was passed by the California Assembly today by a 46-30 vote. The bill will now go to the State Senate. AB 706 improves fire safety standards by prohibiting the use of cancer-causing brominated and chlorinated fire retardants widely used in furniture and bedding products such as pillows, comforters, and mattresses.

Studies show that exposure to even the lowest concentrations of these fire retardants leads to adverse health effects in adults, children, and developing fetuses which include cancer, birth defects, autism, hyperactivity, learning disorders such as A.D.H.D, and reproductive and neurological problems.

“California is the only state in the nation that requires the use of toxic fire retardants in its furniture. Why are we contaminating our infants and children with these chemicals when safer alternatives are available right now? This bill is a no-brainer,” said Russell Long, Vice President of Friends of the Earth.

According to the Environmental Working Group, babies and infants who have been tested have fire retardant levels far higher than their parents. This is due to the fact that they crawl or climb on furniture whose foam has been treated with brominated and chlorinated fire retardants, and ingest dust particles from toys or other items that have been treated with these chemicals. In addition, these fire retardants are increasingly found in breast milk in high levels, which is passed onto babies when nursing. These chemicals are accumulating in humans and the environment at an alarming rate. For example, brominated and chlorinated fire retardants are on average found in U.S. women’s breast milk at levels 40 times greater than they were in the 1970s.

Additionally when burned, brominated fire retardants are converted into dioxin and furans, exposing firefighters to dangerous levels of these toxic and cancer-causing chemicals.

“When people think about the dangers firefighters face on the job, heat and flames are what comes to mind,” said Judi Cutaia, Captain with the Davis Fire Department. “But as a firefighter and cancer survivor, I know that the greatest threats we face are more likely to be the countless unseen and potentially deadly toxins that we are exposed to every time we answer a call. Fire retardants save lives, but the price of that safety shouldn’t be the health of the people they are designed to protect.”

In addition, AB 706 will extend the Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation’s authority to take chemical exposure risks into consideration when setting furniture safety standards, and will provide for consumer education labels when brominated or chlorinated fire retardants are used in furniture or bedding materials.


Friends of the Earth is the U.S. voice of an influential, international network of grassroots groups in 70 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has been at the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a more healthy, just world.